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Technology In The Light Of Environmental Sustainability

E-waste is a major challenge when it comes to technological advances and innovations but most users and some manufacturers have not really considered what happens at the end of a products’ life-cycle. This has invariably led to a lot of environmental concerns from a few people who are actually taking time out to consider these. Mobile phones and other electronic gadgets are contributors to waste (e-waste, which is toxic to our ecosystem), greenhouse gas emissions, and not to talk of the ‘carbon footprint’ they leave behind.

According to Mr Sanjayan (visiting researcher at UCLA senior scientist conservation international), “80% of the greenhouse gas that comes from a smart phone occurs before it reaches the end user….in the US about 1.4 billion mobile devices are produced and sold every year” – contextualize how big the problem is. What this means is that our cell phones become a problem before they ever become a pseudo-solution – in terms of providing us with access to internet and all the other savvy features it offers. This begs the question, does the end justify the means? Are the problem posed by these innovations worth the so-called benefits they bring us? Can we find other means with less problems? These are the questions we should start asking ourselves and the innovators.

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Some innovators and sustainability enthusiasts however, have started researching, developing, and implementing solutions to these problems, most of which are ‘recycling or policy based’. Some of us have phones from years back which we cannot seem to repair or find the courage to toss in the dustbin, a company that produces a mobile device called “Fairphone” is trying to prevent such trends from continuing. Their aim is to make phones that consumers can decouple themselves and repair – they are currently operating in Europe, with plans to move to the US and they are on their second model.

Another company known as ‘Gazelle’ buys old phones from people, which prevents it from becoming toxic waste to the environment. In addition, companies like ‘Apple’ are also taking up recycling of their devices seriously – having a recycling robot called Liam, that can take apart in a few seconds, an IPhone 6. The different parts of the phone are then used to produce other things such as precision tools, and also as raw materials for solar panels.

In terms of policies for sustainability, New York and California stores are required by law to accept old phones from consumers as long as they were the ones who sold it. There are several other innovations combating the negative effects of technological devices and equipments.

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Now, to bring this home – what does this mean for us in West Africa or even more specifically, as Nigerians – simple, we have to step up our game. We must ensure that while we copy the western world and imbibe their culture (and the resultant negative effect that comes with it), we must also look out for the solutions they are implementing to buffer the impact – no one is going to come and do so for us. The onus is on us – as consumers, to be responsible and inquisitive enough to know the pros and cons of our actions, in relation to the impact using certain things can make in our environment. Small actions such as buying fairly used household items and reducing our plastic use, is a step in the right direction to ensure that the world remains habitable even after we must have gone.

To be or not to be a part of the process to restoring balance? The choice is yours.

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