Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Afterlife of Cellphones Blog

1. Discuss the author’s view of cellphone hell, purgatory and heaven.

The melting down of metals that releases toxic chemicals like mercury and chromium that harm the people disposing of the phone embodies the idea of cell phone hell. The author relates the immoral demanufacturing of cell phones to hell by describing phones being melted down, "...burning furiously at 2,116 degrees Fahrenheit..." The author continues to describe the fact that making one cell phone generates more waste than actual material for the phone, as described in question number two. Then, more waste is created when the phone is melted down for metals and toxins are released into the air, making the area a miserable place to exist.

As for purgatory, the author relates it to the middle-ground of cell phone recycling. It is neither keeping an old phone nor carelessly disposing of one. It is giving or selling it to a vendor to resell secondhand. However, not all of them can be reused, so the companies must pay extra money to have them safely recycled. The article states that "In 2005, BAN found 500 shipping containers of electronics arriving in Lagos each month." So, despite the fact that there is this middle-ground, it still has its downfalls in contributing to  "cellphone hell".  Seth Heine, founder of the cell phone recycling company Creative Good, explained that "if a phone gets three or four more lives, 'it’s absolutely better for the environment than having to make three or four more phones — phones that wouldn’t be recycled, either.'"

The author concludes the article by saying "There is no heaven for cellphones." This is a very true statement. There is no way to safely recycle all of the technologies we have today, and there never will be unless companies learn to make safer, ecologically friendly technology. Until then, people will continue to be made ill from toxic chemicals in phones, and it will keep building and building until there is never any hope.

2.How many pounds of waste are generated to mine the gold for a single mobile phone?

According to the article, "Earthworks estimates that mining the gold needed for the circuit board of a single mobile phone generates 220 pounds of waste."

3. Why did you replace your last phone?  What did you do with the phone you replaced?  How about your last computer or tv?  Will you do anything different the next time you replace an electronic device?  Why/why not?

I did not own a cell phone prior to owning the one I received from my parents in May of 2012, so I have no answer to contribute. As for my last computer, I shamefully just threw it away because I had used it for so long, it was basically un-fixable when it crashed. Next time, I will find a legitimately safe recycling plant (aka e-Stewards) to dispose of my unusable technology because I don't want people in third-world countries to be harmed by the chemicals that are released into the air when metals are melted down. I hate the idea that the US isn't taking a lot of responsibility in its own recycling of technologies, and I believe that there should be far more green recycling plants in the country.

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