Sunday, 24 February 2008

Mobile Phones

This is rather a long article which is summarised here but it is really scary to think about the components of your mobile and then where the old ones eventually end up. Try to read through this one if you can or take it in several small chunks. Good for S3 as revision before the tests.
There is one mobile phone for every three people on the planet. Even in the poorest countries they are everywhere, because the landline systems are usually hopeless and the housing so poor that people spend as little time as possible at home. In 2006 in Tanzania, where average income is just $560 a head, there are more signs advertising top-up cards than anything else! About half the weight of a typical mobile phone is the casing, which is made of moulded plastic with a little added iron and aluminium. The plastic contains small amounts of phthalates, chemicals that are used to soften the plastic. High doses of phthalates are thought to damage hormonal systems. Another quarter of the phone's weight is wiring and the circuit board. These are mostly made of copper but also contain magnesium, tin solder and small amounts of gold, as well as arsenic, chromium and beryllium, which can produce poisinous dust during manufacture and recycling. The circuit board is also likely to contain brominated flame retardants, which prevent your phone bursting into flames, but may produce dioxins if the phone is one day incinerated (burnt). Then there are cobalt, lithium and carbon in the battery, silver in the keyboard and tantalum in the capacitors.
A typical mobile phone weighs only about 75g, but requires the mining of 30kg of rock. In addition, manufacturing the chips requires several hundred litres of water, and the energy from burning several tens of fossil fuels.
Most mobiles are discarded within two years - that's 15 million every year in Britain. The value of metal in an individual phone is probably only a few pence. That's why most phones end up in landfill. All that copper, silver, gold and tantalum wasted. All that arsenic, antimony, lead and other toxins leaking poisons into the ground. So what is better? Recycling seemed the obvious one. The new European directive on electronic waste, called the WEEE directive, stresses that the materials get recycled, but much of this seems to be carried out illegally and dangerously in China and India. In any case, why not prolong the life of the phone itself? Find someone else who wants it? Is it really that easy?

1 comment:

Jeni said...

The facts in this article are really amazing. Specially conclusion part comes up with more horrifying particular of this story!!