The split personality of a phone

The mobile phone. A breakthrough. An innovation. An example of the huge strides technology has made.

A big tick for mobiles then? Well, not exactly. You see they’ve also been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. Behind many of their smiling, happy go lucky exteriors, it’s not a pretty sight with the run of the mill phone carrying up to 1,000 different components. Each containing toxic flame retardants, heavy metals and poisonous plasticizers. Doesn’t make pleasant reading does it?

So for our planet’s sake, it’s a good job some folk out there actually care.

Some manufacturers are running greener phones off their conveyer belts. Not only have they been put together using techniques that raise two fingers to the likes of lead, cadmium and mercury, they also come packaged with a more environmentally friendly charger. So hats off to those people we think.

Another shout-out goes to the materials scientist and electronics engineer Shashank Priya. His genius mind conjured up the wind powered phone charger for Orange. These then ended up on the tents of chuffed Glastonbury revellers in ‘07. See more here:

Then there’s the wind-up and solar powered chargers kicking around on the market too.

So hope is out there. But until they roll these things out on a bigger scale:
1) Get recycling your old phones and batteries.
2) Pull your charger plug out (they still waste energy when not in use).
3) Spread the word about 1) and 2).

But if you want to do more for the environment, you could become:

  • materials scientist, developing new crystalline or ceramic materials to convert different forms of energy like vibrations into electricity
  • An electrical engineer, designing small scale solar cells or wind turbines to charge mobile phones
  • chemical engineer, working out how to remove toxic chemicals when recycling plastics
  • An industrial chemist, developing alternative plasticisers (added to plastics to soften them) that are not toxic to people or animals
  • software developer, writing software to add new features to phones and music players, so they can be upgraded without buying a new one
  • psychologist, studying consumer behaviour to see how and why people buy, use and dispose of their phones and how the behaviour could be changed
  • project manager for a telecommunications company, organising a scheme to take back old mobile phones and deliver them to recycling facilities
  • An environmental scientist, managing the remediation* of sites where hazardous waste has been disposed of
  • waste manager, dismantling waste electronic equipment and recycling, reusing or safely disposing of the parts
  • financial adviser, advising on investment risks in the renewable technology or the telecommunications markets

* Remediation = the term used for cleaning up an environmentally contaminated site. This involves taking action to reduce, isolate, or remove contamination from an environment with the goal of preventing exposure to people or animals.