From the graphite used to create batteries, to the silicone within the processors, our smartphones are made of all sorts of natural materials. Even though some of them (for example, indium tin oxide that is used on the touch screen part of our smartphones) are found only in small quantities, they all have to be extracted from the earth before they can be added into phones.
The mining and extracting processes that are used to get these materials can have a huge impact on the natural world, and unfortunately, the resources we use for inside of our smartphones aren’t infinite and will run out. Essentially, the more we use, the less we have to make use of.
Some materials like iron and aluminum are found in large quantities all over the world, and aren’t in d anger of running out. However, materials like copper- the third most used material in smartphones- aren’t being found fast enough to meet the high demand that smartphones require.
Not only is copper not being discovered, but the quality of the copper that we find is less valuable than copper that was found 5 years ago. Again, this is due to the high demand of copper. With the value of copper diminishing, the money made from finding and selling copper is also dwindling. As a result of this, it is not feasible to shell out the money to create a new copper mine, and may not be for some time. Currently, it’s thought that a new copper mine won’t be a consideration for the next 20 years at least.
In 2016, the average cost of copper of $3 per pound, whereas in the past one pound was $3.50. In order for a new mine to be created, copper needs to reach the $3.50 mark once again.
When we think about the materials that are harvested to be used in our smartphones, it becomes hard not to think about how much is left, and where, if anywhere, will we get more once supply runs out? If we ran out of the essential materials, the creation of smartphones would slow down, and the prices of smartphones already on the market would sky rocket.
So, how can we cut back on how much material we need for smartphones? As consumers, our biggest way of changing things, would be by way of purchase. By this I mean, instead of purchasing that new iPhone, stick with your old iPhone for a bit longer.