We live in a disposable culture where few things are made to last. We’re constantly bombarded with messages, some obvious, some more subtle and insidious, that we should always be consuming, upgrading, and replacing the things we’ve bought. Many things are single-use, made of plastic, and thrown in the trash without a second thought. Other more expensive pieces of hardware that are assumed to be sturdy, high-quality, and long-lasting, like our laptops, phones, tablets, and other devices, may last past the year, but often not much longer than that.
What is a normal lifespan for electronics and how long do we tend to keep them around before moving onto the hottest new thing?
Technology moves at an incredible pace, but in terms of basic and even more advanced functionalities, do our phones and computers really change that much that they need to be discarded so frequently? Consumers expect that electronics in their home will last about five years, and some actually last longer than this. But we discard them before our own estimated life expectancy is up. We don’t wait until our TV stops working or phone screen goes black to replace them. Flat panel TVs have a life expectancy of 7-8 years and smartphones have a life expectancy of 4-5 years.
One problem, with mobile phones specifically, is they are available as part of contracted plans: usually on a two-year cycle. Many people find their phones (not-so-coincidentally?) slow down after this period has ended. There is no longer adequate hardware support. Plus, we’re eligible for a new “free” phone (that, of course, is not actually free).We quickly become annoyed withour slightly less fast phones andget new ones, and much sooner than the phone’s realistic lifespan. Here, the onus is also placed on companies like Apple and Samsung’s shoulders as well as consumers.
The problem with replacing electronics and other technology so quickly is certainly not that mega-corporations like Apple and Microsoft are turning in weak quarterly reports. It’s the amount of non-renewable resources used to make billions of devices; the energy consumed, and the pollution expelled while manufacturing them, distributing them, and using them; and that most of this technology ends up languishing and leeching toxic chemicals into massive landfills all over the globe – but mostly in poor developing countries.
Thankfully our recycling efforts are increasing. Businesses like Absolute Destruction & Recycling not only protects businesses and individuals with secure shredding of sensitive documents, and the proper destruction of electronic and storage devices, but they also recycle all of the resulting materials according to laws and regulations laid out by the N.A.I.D. and government.
Cities will also pick up e-waste from the corner – but anything that contains personal information should be professionally-handled to prevent potential identity theft. Holding onto your broken devices doesn’t mean they’re not e-waste. Some of those materials can be used again.
It’s important that consumers use their technology as long as possible before discarding and using environmentally-friendly services when they’re no longer functioning. We need to collectively put pressure on corporate powers who generate exorbitant profits from us throwing away our devices and tricking us into thinking we need the latest versions, plus to continue supporting our current devices that are a few years out-of-date.
If these products are so top-of-the-line and incredible – they should last a long, long time, shouldn’t they?