Your Broken iPhone Is a Climate Change Issue

A gadget lover’s guide to doing our part to help stem the tide of e-waste

Joshua Adams
OneZero
Published in
5 min readJan 14, 2020

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Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

TThe crisis of climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time. Politicians and policymakers around the world are looking for ways to protect the environment while transforming the energy economy in a way that won’t leave working-class folks behind.

While many justifiably concentrate on air pollution and protecting our oceans, one source of damage to our environment that gadget lovers often overlook comes from our waste — particularly e-waste.

E-waste is a global problem. As the consumption of technology ever increases, so does the number of broken phones, computers, power tools, and more that end up as waste. Much of the world’s e-waste gets shipped and dumped in West Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. What augments the problem is “planned obsolescence” — a practice where tech manufacturers build products to have a fixed (often relatively short) lifespan and limit consumers’ ability to repair them. Big companies like Apple have been criticized for making some of the “least repairable” products. (We reached out to Apple PR and they didn’t get back in time for this article’s publication.)

Right to Repair is a movement surrounding the simple idea that people should be able to fix the technology they buy.

Though Silicon Valley often asserts that the solution to ecological devastation is innovation, there are scholars, activists, entrepreneurs, and other shareholders who look toward renovation. One solution they offer is the Right to Repair.

Right to Repair is a movement surrounding the simple idea that people should be able to fix the technology they buy. In terms of law and policy, Right to Repair would codify consumers’ expectations that if they own a tech product then they have the right to repair and refurbish it, and it would require manufacturers to give straightforward and accessible instructions on how to repair their products. Nathan Proctor, the director of the Campaign for the Right to Repair at the United States Public Interest Research Group, wants to draw attention to this idea.

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Joshua Adams
OneZero

Joshua Adams is a writer from Chicago. UVA & USC. Assistant Professor at Columbia College Chicago. Twitter: @ProfJoshuaA