There now are 6 billion mobile phones worldwide. In the UK, ownership has soared since the mid-1990s to more than 83 million – more than one handset for every individual.
But how do you find a handset and provider that offers some sort of mindfulness of materials, processes, supply chains, working standards, human rights and the ability to repair and reuse?
Avoid the incessant upgrades offered by most phone contracts. Switch to the cheap and cheerful co-operative GiffGaff and buy refurbished phones to reduce electronic waste.
An average smartphone may contain more than 60 different metals. The lengthy supply chains of endless ingredients are often suitably opaque, leading big corporations to cut corners on ethical extract and get away with it.
Tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold are rare and difficult metals to extract, and have been mined from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda since the mid 1990s.
The high demand for precious, scarce metals in lawless areas has lead to decades of wars. Armed rebels control the trades which has caused 5 million deaths in the Congo to date.
Despite several decades of focus on the evils perpetrated by the electronics industry abroad, most corporations still can't guarantee conflict-free, child-labour-free products due to severely circuitous supply chains.
Children as young as 7 are found in mines all round the world, undergoing extreme labour, malnourishment and mis-treatment from employers and gangs.
Employees have even been poisoned by deadly chemicals, and yet big brands continue to develop and build bigger, better yet unethical new products.
Many toxic chemicals go into mobile phones, making disposal an environmental and health hazard.
Old electronic items are often shipped off as unused when they are actually not-functioning.
What can we do?
The Fairphone offers an incredible and innovative eco mobile phone which uses fair materials, is made under ethical working conditions, and offers long-lasting modular repairs.
Otherwise, buying refurbished and repaired prevents the profits of continuous upgrades supporting the leading electronics companies that fail to fall into line on fair products.
Not only are GiffGaff the most ethical, cooperative phone provider, they also support customers in buying refurbished models with decent warranties.