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.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker April 27 signed legislation to increase recycling grant funding in the state, but the money is still short of where it was when Walker took office.
The governor, in a signing ceremony at J & S General Contracting in Osceola, signed AB 515, making it Act 392.
“I was happy to support it,” state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, said of AB 515. However, she added, “We’re still grossly below what we were and even less than what we had last year.”
The legislation increases by $3 million the recycling grant funding provided to the state Department of Natural Resources for fiscal 2015-16. The DNR issues the grant money to local governments for efforts that “positively impact the day-to-day operations of local government recycling programs.”
The measure, passed with bipartisan support in the Assembly and the Senate, is intended to reduce the harm caused by a $4 million cut to the state recycling program in the 2015 budget bill.
“I wish it was substantially more,” Sargent said of the funding. “I wish we hadn’t slid backward.”
Meanwhile, environmental watchdogs report that recycling in the state has declined and they suggest a tie to funding cuts.
In its campaign to restore funding, the nonprofit Clean Wisconsin informed its membership that the $4 million cut to grants for municipalities resulted in cuts to curbside pickup, reduced hours at recycling drop-offs and higher service fees for residents.
“Combined with other cuts over the last five years, recycling fccleunding has been reduced a whopping 53 percent,” CW informed members, urging them to urge Walker to sign AB 515.
The DNR’s overall numbers show residential recycling at:
- 423,661 tons in 2008.
- 420,047 tons in 2010.
- 396,653 tons in 2011.
- 390,770 tons in 2012.
- 412,874 tons in 2013.
From 2010 to 2011, money for the recycling grant funding program went from $32.1 million to $20 million under the Walker administration.
Other factors figure into recycling rates, including several positive trends: industries have reduced amounts of packaging materials, consumers have economized on the packaging they bring home, single-stream programs in some locations has made recycling easier, as has increasing pickups.
“I’ve never met a person who said we should recycle less,” said Sargent.
Did you know?
About 94 percent of Wisconsin households recycle, according to Clean Wisconsin, a statewide environmental group.
Recycling on the Web
Recycling information from the DNR.
The next six weeks will be filled with traditions: Pumpkin pie and turkey. Caroling. Making cookies. Spending time with family and friends.
Add one more to the list: Recycling.
“Wisconsin has a strong recycling ethic,” says Amanda Wegner, communications director with Clean Wisconsin. “We enacted one of the first recycling laws in the nation in 1990, and a whopping 94 percent of households here recycle. Recycling is very much a tradition in Wisconsin.”
Today, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day, a national day to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling and buying recycled products. While we’re all familiar with how to recycle household items such as paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, many other household items have recycling solutions. Here a few to consider:
- Appliances: Steel is North America’s most recycled material. If your community doesn’t offer appliance recycling, visit the Steel Recycling Institute to find out a location near you. Goodwill also accepts working appliances.
- Athletic shoes: Don’t kick your old shoes to the curb. Drop them off at a Nike store, and Nike will grind them down to create play surfaces.
- Juice pouches, empty tape rolls, writing utensils & more: Does an item have you scratching your head, wondering if it’s recyclable? Check out Terracycle’s Brigades program, which offers national programs to collect previously non-recyclable or hard to recycle waste.
- Packaging peanuts: Many suppliers are happy to take these back. Find a site near you here.
- Unused/unneeded drugs and pharmaceuticals: Many municipalities and police departments now sponsor regular drug take-back days or have secure dropboxes; find one here.
- Wine corks: Raise a glass responsibly by recycling your corks. Whole Foods offers bins for corks in stores or find a ReCork drop-off site at www.recork.org/en/location
- Holiday lights: ‘Tis the season for burnt-out and broken light strings! Holiday LEDs will recycle them for you and send you a coupon for new LED light string. As an added bonus, their recycling center is here in Wisconsin!
- CFLs: While they save 75% more energy than incandescents, even CFL lightbulbs burn out now and then. And because they contain a small amount of mercury, it’s important to dispose of them properly. Many hardware stores will take spent CFLs for recycling; visit Focus on Energy for a full list.
- Old thermostats: Like CFLs, old dial-style thermostats contain a small amount of mercury. If there’s a remodeling project in your future or you’re upgrading to a programmable thermostat to save energy and money, visit www.thermostat-recycle.org/zipsearch to find a recycling location.
- Other items: Try listing other items on sites like www.freecycle.org, Craigslist and online garage sales. Your trash could very well be another person’s treasure.
U.S. consumers are collectively responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores or any other part of the food-supply chain—a problem that costs the average family an average of about $1,500 every year — but a new book out later this month seeks to help change that, one meal at a time.
The Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook — out Sept. 29 from Chronicle Books — will offer simple consumer tips and tools to saving money and food, from the grocery store to the kitchen.
“Imagine walking out of the grocery store with four bags full of food, dropping one, and not bothering to pick it up—that’s essentially what American families are doing every day,” said Dana Gunders, author and scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Wasted food is wasted money, wasted energy and wasted water. Armed with simple tips and tools, families can make a major dent in what’s currently getting tossed out with the trash — and put a little cash back in their wallets at the same time.”
Americans are throwing away 40 percent of food in the U.S., the equivalent of $162 billion in wasted food each year. Until now, many well-intentioned home cooks have lacked the tools to change their food waste habits.
Gunders’ handbook — packed with engaging checklists, simple recipes, practical strategies, educational infographics and custom kitchen audits — is the ultimate tool for reducing food waste at home. It dispels the illusion that cutting food waste requires significant time and money, with easy tips for how to:
• Cook with leftover ingredients
• Grocery shop smarter
• Plan meals better
• Decode expiration dates
• Store foods properly
• Use your fridge to its full potential
• Understand shelf-life, storage & usability for 85+ common groceries
The guide can help put more money back in consumers’ bank accounts and also reduce the strain on the environment.
When food is wasted, so are all the resources that went into producing it:
• 25 percent of the nation’s fresh water goes into producing food that is never eaten.
• If global food waste was a country, it would have the world’s largest greenhouse gas footprint after the U.S. and China—food
• Waste just in the U.S. is responsible for emissions equal to those from 33 million cars.
• Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills.
• 28 percent of the world’s agricultural land—an area larger than Canada—is used to grow food that gets wasted.
“Food waste is a global problem we can tackle in our own homes,” Gunders said. “When we throw out perfectly good food, we throw out all of the resources used to get it to our table—massive amounts of land, energy and water — along with it. Small, easy changes in our daily routine can add up to big benefits for the environment, and big savings in our pockets.”
A coalition of recycling and solid waste organizations want the Legislature to dump Gov. Scott Walker’s budget cuts to recycling efforts.
Four recycling groups — the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin, Council on Recycling, Solid Waste Association of North America-Badger Chapter and Wisconsin Counties Solid Waste Management Association — in late March weighed in on the Walker budget. They urged reconsideration of proposed reductions or eliminations in funding from the Environmental Management Account.
Walker’s two-year budget plan would reduce recycling grants available to local governments by $4 million; eliminate $394,100 for UW-Extension Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center and eliminate $156,100 for UW solid waste research and experiments.
The funding doesn’t come from tax dollars but rather from the per-ton recycling and environmental fees assessed at landfills. From the nearly $13 per-ton fee, $9.64 goes to the Environmental Management Account.
The recycling groups, in letters to Walker and members of the House and Senate, expressed special concern for the $4 million reduction in financial assistance to local governments for recycling. The cut of 22 percent would come on top of a cut of 40 percent that hit in 2011, under Walker, who also diverted money from the environmental management program for other uses.
“These cuts pose a risk to recycling programs across the state and pose a greater risk to those Wisconsin businesses that rely on recyclables as raw materials for Wisconsin,” the groups said jointly.
Environmentalists also protested the proposed cuts, arguing the administration budget threatens the state’s 20-year-old mandatory recycling campaign at a time when residential recycling is on the decline.