A Respectable, Reusable Retirement
After serving time as our go-to devices for almost everything, eventually our iPhones begin to show their electronic
age. We update the iOS, we update apps, and we (gasp) put a
few dings, dents, scratches, and cracks on our battle-ravaged
tech tool. Some of us upgrade every year while others clutch
an aged-generation iPhone as long as it will turn on. While I
used to be an early adopter, I now see the value of buying
used iPhones. If we can delay gratification a bit and buy used,
we can be certain we are buying items on our own terms and
help cut down on energy and material use.
Holding on to an iPhone for as long as possible is the environmentally sustainable move, but how long is too long?
The general consensus is about three years. Wait longer, and
the battery starts to seriously degrade, the hardware doesn’t
quite match the iOS anymore, and a host of other issues begin making the iPhone a source of frustration instead of joy.
A Peaceful Passing: Is There iPhone
Life After iPhone Death?
When the day finally comes to upgrade your iPhone, you
have several options of what to do with your retired device. If
it’s still functioning, selling locally is best. Otherwise, trade-in
services such as Gazelle, Swappa, and Glyde will pay you fast
in cash or gift cards with minimal hassle and effort. Finally,
you can always look to eBay for a community of millions who
are buying and selling all day long, every day.
named Liam can
take apart 2. 4 million
iPhones per year.”
If your device is damaged or non-functional, you can take
advantage of Apple’s Renew program, which accepts items
in any condition to responsibly recycle. Apple’s head of environmental affairs said Apple has reclaimed and recycled
85 percent of what it sold 7 years prior, an impressive feat
considering the industry average for 7 years before is 70
percent. But what does Apple do with your old iPhone? First,
they determine if they can repair it and resell it into the used
market. If the iPhone is beyond repair, they remove valuable
components such as the LCD screen, camera, and processor
for sale into the component marketplace. Apple’s two deconstructor robots named Liam can take apart 2. 4 million iPhones
per year. Any leftover pieces are then actually recycled. Apple
does its best to recycle everything in North America, but officially, the company doesn’t disclose what ultimately happens
to any of the broken-down components.
For non-Apple trade-in services accepting iPhones for recycling, this process is a little different. Without state of the art
equipment, these other companies are generally in the business of selling busted iPhones at wholesale. These iPhones
are not likely to be broken down for parts here in the states by
As a student of sustainability, I am becoming more aware
of the impact of the purchases I make. As environmentally
conscious as I try to be by buying local, buying used, and
avoiding the trap of product obsolescence whether planned or
perceived, I still managed to rack up 72 orders on Amazon in
2016. Having a deeper awareness about how our products are
made is important, but life demands balance. I know if I spent
all of my time stressing about where every last item in my
life came from, or feeling guilty and ashamed when it finally
arrived, I would drive myself insane. Having a global consumer
market provides a convenience that pays incalculable time
dividends in our busy lives. Over the last 200 years, we have
pushed the tolerance of the environment in the name of a
better quality of life. Now, we are shifting toward finding better ways to continue to make innovative products in a more
thoughtful way that takes into account all the repercussions
of our actions. By taking these steps, we can care about the
environment and continue our love of new technology.
Chris Vasques has worked for tech companies such as Avid and Gazelle, where his long
history of gadget and technology fascination became a professional passion. He is
currently studying Sustainable Community Development with a focus on Media Marketing, and enjoys writing, playing music, productivity hacks, and entrepreneurism.