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The Downside to the Upgrade and How We Can be More Sustainable with our Technological Devices

Edited by Megan Cambruzzi

Phones are arguably one of the most used pieces of technology. I’ll be the first to admit that I spend way too much time on my phone. I’m on it to text my friends, FaceTime my family, check my grades, and more. With phones playing such an important role in our daily lives, it makes sense that we would invest in the best tech we can get our hands on. 

But when do the costs, both monetary and environmental, become too high, how do we justify upgrading our devices? Electronic waste is toxic waste, and it currently makes up over half of our overall toxic waste production. Worldwide, we generate about 40 million tons of electronic waste per year, and much of this waste does not end up being recycled.

It is clear that mobile device technology has hugely improved over the last 10 years – many of us still remember the days when Blackberries were all the rage, and every “cool girl” carried a pink, bedazzled flip phone. However, individual phone model upgrades are not always that drastic: with the iPhone 13 recently out, much criticism has been made about its similarity to the previous iPhone 12 models. With the biggest differences being camera quality and battery life, an upgrade may make sense for a photographer or an avid traveller, but perhaps not for the average lifestyle.

When we upgrade our phones every time a new model is released, we aren’t using our device to its full potential lifetime. It’s important to consider alternative ways to dispose of old devices: instead of throwing your old phone out, try using it solely as a music device, an alarm clock, or a reading device. You can even use it as a security camera for your home or a TV remote. By using old devices for these more specialized household needs, you can save memory space on your current device and have a more accessible home setup.

If you can’t find a new use for your old phone in your home, remember to recycle, and not trash, the device. Apple will trade in an old device for some extra cash, while BestBuy will recycle your devices free of charge. In Canada, the Bell Blue Box program lets you recycle your used phone at any Bell store or by shipping it to the program free of charge. Many independent stores will also let you recycle your devices at their locations, and many will even pay you for the device! If your phone is relatively new, you can resell the phone to secondhand electronic stores or online and give someone else the opportunity to use the device to its full extent.

Madeleine Brown is a 3rd year student at the University of Toronto St George campus, specializing in English with a minor in Biology. Outside of HerCampus, Maddie is an officer of Alpha Omicron Pi’s Beta Tau chapter and tutors English as a second language, which she hopes to continue doing around the world post-graduation. Maddie hails from Bellevue, Washington, and enjoys music, cats, and long hikes.
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