Apple recently revealed its new iPhone lineup, and as usual, Apple fans are chomping at the bit to buy the company’s latest and greatest product.
However, the new iPhone X’s environmental price tag is at least as steep as its $999 cash price tag.
According to Greenpeace, 7.1 billion smartphones have been manufactured since 2007. Yet, new devices like the iPhone X continue to be produced, and companies are driving campaigns that have customers seeking out these new and improved models.
“It’s magnifying the problem very significantly,” said Alex Sebastian, co-founder of smartphone reseller Orchard. “If you look at a computer, most people use it until it’s unusable. But people have gotten used to new updates to the phone every one to two years.”
Another problem is that few people recycle their smartphones when they buy a new one. A 2014 study from the United Nations University estimated that less than 16 percent of electronics waste is recycled. Not only that, but 3 million metric tons of e-waste was produced in 2014 alone. Most of that waste either goes to landfills or is shipped to developing countries, where they are taken apart and the metals within are reclaimed.
Mining the metals used in smartphones—gold, copper, tungsten, cobalt, and more—can devastate ecosystems. And labor practices in developing countries make it very likely that the metals used in your new iPhone X are being mined by children working in terrible conditions.
So, what can you do to improve your environmental impact if you must have the new iPhone X? Here are some tips from the United States Environmental Protection Agency:
- Buy an unlocked phone. If you buy a phone that’s not tied to a certain cell phone carrier, you can take your phone with you if you decide to change carriers.
- Get a phone you like. Select a phone with features you need and a style you like, so you’ll keep it longer.
- Take care of your phone. Protect it with a case, keep it out of the water and away from extreme temperatures. Change the battery according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Donate your old phone. Give it to a friend or family member in need, for example. If you’re feeling philanthropic, donate it to a domestic violence victims’ organization; they often provide smartphones to their clients so they can communicate with the organization without their abuser knowing.
- Sell it back. If you participate in your cell phone provider’s buyback program, you may get a discount on your new iPhone.
- Recycle it. Drop off your old phone at an electronics recycling location or a take-back program.
Before you sell, recycle, or donate your phone, terminate your service, clear the phone’s memory of contacts, photos, or other personal information, and remove your SIM card.
Follow these tips, and if you must buy the new iPhone X, you’ll feel a little bit better about reducing your phone’s environmental impact.