Consumers say mobile phone manufacturers are releasing too many new models, according to a survey Greenpeace commissioned across six countries.
In all countries surveyed, consumers were most likely to say that mobile phone manufacturers should be responsible for providing people with the means to recycle their phones, while four in five surveyed said that it was important that a new smartphone can be easily repaired if damaged.
“The humble smartphone puts enormous strain on our environment from the moment they are produced — often with hazardous chemicals — to the moment they are disposed of in huge e-waste sites,” said Chih An Lee, Global IT Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
“Over half of respondents across the countries surveyed agree that manufacturers are releasing too many new models, many designed to only last a few years. In fact, most users actually want their phones to be more easily dismantled, repaired and recycled.”
Mobile phones are some of the most frequently replaced of all small electronics products.
A United Nations University report in 2014 showed that up to 3 million metric tonnes of e-waste is generated from small IT products, such as mobile phones and personal computers. This represents a massive waste of resources and a source of contamination from hazardous chemicals.
Key findings from the survey:
Chinese (66 percent) and South Korean respondents (64 percent) are more likely to have ever had their phones repaired, compared to those in the US (28 percent) and Germany (23 percent).
Nearly half surveyed believe that mobile phone manufacturers should be most responsible for making recycling accessible. This sentiment was strongest in Germany (61 percent).
Except in Germany (86 percent), over 90 percent of respondents surveyed in all countries said that “designed to last” is an important feature of a new smartphone.
Four in five respondents consider it important that a new smartphone is not produced using hazardous chemicals.
Four in five respondents believe it is important for a new smartphone to be easily repaired if damaged.This rises to as high as 95 percent in China, 94 percent in Mexico and 92 percent in South Korea.
Apart from respondents in South Korea, the most common reason for replacing their last phone was the desire for a more up-to-date device.
“We believe true innovation means gadgets designed to last, to be repaired and recycled. It is time for tech leaders to rethink the way they make our electronics so that they are as innovative for our planet as they are for our lives,” said Lee.
“If tech brands want to lead us into the future, they need to move towards closed-loop production and embrace the circular economy; something that can be good for their profits, for people and for the planet.”
Greenpeace East Asia conducted the survey as part of its True Innovation campaign, which challenges the technology sector to embrace innovation to protect our environment and our future.