Today is World Environment Day – a good reason to put climate change and the islands of plastic waste floating in our oceans on the back burner for a minute and take a look at a beloved toy instead: the smartphone. After all, using these devices properly, helps to reduce pollution.
I get a new business smartphone every two years. And I'm thrilled when I open the box, feel its cover slowly slipping up, and take the latest version of this fine piece of technology from its packaging. The old smartphone? Quickly forgotten. Given back and out of mind. And I'm not the only who feels that way: Nearly 23 million smartphones were sold in Germany last year. At the same time, 124 million devices lie in German drawers. Many of them still work perfectly or just have minor damage. These devices are valuable! (pdf, 241.2 KB)
125 mg of silver, 25 mg of gold, 9 g of copper, and small amounts of palladium and platinum can be recovered from each recycled device. Why waste these raw materials? Why not pass on smartphones within the family or continue using them ourselves? A couple of simple tricks can help you extend the lifetime of your smartphone considerably. The simplest, of course, is the smartphone cover. It protects your phone against the most frequent type of damage: the cracked display. Number two on the list of top tips is the tiresome problem of "charging": charging batteries overnight is one of the most frequent "environmental sins" associated with smartphone use. This is because the long charging time results in what is called "trickle charging": even though the battery is already charged 100%, the charging process continues to compensate for minor losses. This damages your smartphone battery and also wastes electricity. Instead, we recommend that you monitor the charging process and wait to start charging until the battery level has fallen to around 35 percent.
Storing phones together with keys and money also damages them, because after all, who wants to have a phone with ugly scratches and dents? The display also has an allergic reaction to glass cleaner – so it's best to do without, as Deutsche Telekom's Computerhilfe suggested in response to my question. (They also provide more expert tips for a long smartphone life: www.telekom.de/computerhilfe, German only)
What to do if your mobile is broken?
But sometimes there's no avoiding it: your battery is defective, your display is cracked, or your smartphone stops working altogether. I talked about this with our sustainability expert Cornelia Szyszkowitz. And I learned that Deutsche Telekom offers a whole range of measures to help customers use their smartphones longer and pass them on sensibly. The Company's aim is to achieve as much sustainable recycling as possible.
In addition to the Computerhilfe described above, Deutsche Telekom also collaborates with Reparando, a service provider for smartphone repairs. Their experts come directly to your home or office and repair smartphones at fair prices. It doesn't get more convenient than that. The repaired smartphones could then be offered to Deutsche Telekom's buying service online or in one of our Telekom Shops. In this process, Deutsche Telekom makes sure that all your data is irreversibly deleted from your device. These smartphones are usually processed and resold.
If nothing else can be done, then defective phones should be recycled, to recover their valuable raw materials. Old devices can be sent back through our online portal, Handysammelcenter. Deutsche Telekom donates the revenues from sales of such devices to non-profit organizations.
Everyone can contribute to environmental protection
I have a feeling I know what's coming next: allegations that Deutsche Telekom, as a provider, is driving the smartphone carousel itself, and our measures for improving recycling are mere greenwashing. My clear response: yes, we offer a variety of rate plans, with and without new phones every two years – that's the standard today. But everyone is free to choose their own rate plans and is responsible for that decision. In turn, it is our responsibility to ensure that the smartphone life cycle is as sustainable as possible. And that's what we are doing.
I will also do my part in future. In two years' time, I will think carefully about whether I really need a new smartphone. And I will take good care of my current phone in the interim.