ONE of the fast rising environmental problems is electronic waste or e-waste. According to the United Nations University, the volume of discarded electronics in East and South-East Asia alone jumped almost two-thirds between 2010 and 2015, and e-waste generation is growing fast in both total volume and per capita measures. Mineral resources and precious metals are also being depleted as demand for gadgets continue to soar.
When the problem of e-waste and use of non-renewable resources is brought to the fore, the smartphone easily comes to mind. This gadget uses a lot of resources to produce and has a short life span due to rapid advances in technology. However, not everything is bad about this piece of equipment. Smartphones may have actually helped the environment by reducing, if not eliminating, the production of other electronic equipment.
Case in point is the digital camera. Have you noticed that people are using their cell phones in taking pictures and videos instead of digital cameras and video cams? A few years back, old model cell phone cameras were no match to digital cameras in terms of image quality. But now, the situation is different. Smartphone cameras have improved significantly. According to CIPA, an association of the world’s most renowned camera makers, global camera shipments dropped by more than 80 percent since peaking in 2010.
There are several advantages to using smartphones instead of digicams. One is convenience. You can carry it anywhere and it’s always with you. Another is the ease of sharing photos and videos through Bluetooth, social media or email. Third, is you can organize the pictures into an album which is difficult to do in a digital camera. You can also do image editing in your smart phone.
Another victim of the smartphone revolution is the Compact Disc (CD) and the CD player. Digital music and music streaming have made CD almost obsolete. The portability of the smartphone, its large and expandable memory and mobile internet capability, have reduced the need for a CD. Some cars do not have a CD slot in their stereo system anymore. Along with CD, MP3 players are also nearing extinction.
There is a term for this shift in usage preference. It’s called dematerialization. Defined in economics as the reduction in the quantity of materials required to serve economic functions. It’s doing more with less. Dematerialization can also be defined as using less or no material to deliver the same level of functionality. That’s good news for the environment.
Smartphones may have also reduced other materials, not necessarily electronics. Paper for example. I read the news in my smartphone so I don’t buy hard copies anymore. Another is photo paper. I can store pictures in my phone and carry my entire album wherever I go. Smartphones may have also reduced the demand for bulky desktop computers. You can browse the internet, receive and send e-mails, write letters and spreadsheets and view PowerPoint presentation using a smartphone.