Monday, 5 September 2016

Death By Design

"You Can Bury It or You Can Burn It"

I've just been reading this article on The Age Newspaper's website. While the piece headlines iPhones, it goes on to discuss how all major phone companies are negligent in designing products that will have a short life cycle. (It appears that Samsung's new flagship model has been designed for an even shorter lifespan, with some of the recently released phones either bursting into flames or exploding, prompting a total recall of the device!) The article is all about a major new award-winning documentary, Death By Design, which explores the consequences of building in obsolescence and our insatiable appetites for new gadgets.

Burying it: computer motherboards ready for internment
Burning it: cooking up lead and cadmium
While it might be trendy to have the latest gadget, recycling our old ones is not done quite in such an honourable and responsible manner as we affluent western consumers would like to think. While the film isn't asking people to go back to Gutenberg and Semaphore as our primary means of communication: it is asking people to pause before deciding that they really need to change their phone, computer or TV. Can we extend the life cycle of our toys? For our children's sake, and for the planet's sake, let's hope so.

The trailer for the documentary is in Vimeo rather than YouTube so I can't embed it here, but if would like to see it you can follow this link.

"All these brands ... they just buy from the cheapest"

What I find most disturbing about all of this is the way we in the west have eschewed all responsibility for recycling the e-waste of our cast-off gadgets. China, which has become the country where most electronics are manufactured, is also the place where most of them are sent for so-called recycling. Unfortunately, it appears that most of what is recycled is merely the copper: the rest is burnt or buried. Isn't it time we started putting pressure on our governments to require proper recycling within our own borders? (This is a major theme of mine: I find it appalling that we Australians ship mine and ship uranium around the world but we won't use it ourselves and we don't take the waste back.)

For people living in Australia, Environmental Film Festival Australia will be screening Death By Design around the country later this year and into 2017. If you are interested in receiving news about EFFA, you can sign up here. It's worth it just to be able to click the box saying "I GIVE A FLICK!"

P.S. If you're curious about what the inside of a Samsung Note 7 phone looks like and how the battery is connected and a discussion of why it is failing, this is an entertaining little video ...

Addenda: 8th September

So, the iPhone 7 has just been launched. Much as I like my Apple devices, this article expounds on why you shouldn't buy the new phone. And I have to say, I concur completely. The world needs to send Apple a message about both shouldering its corporate responsibility to pay taxes and stop releasing an update that consists of largely cosmetic changes.