|Its a clever marketing manoeuvre entice customers to buy more of your products by making your current product obsolete or your new product more alluring. Cell phone manufacturers have mastered it and our landfills are paying for it. A lack of regulation and current industry structure are whats allowing it to happen.
At one time, cell phones were a luxury technology used by elite business people. Today, these devices have been effectively marketed to almost every age, race, occupation and income level. According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, wireless phones are among the fastest growing consumer products in history with more than half of all Canadians owning at least one cell phone. In fact, by the end of 2006, Canadian wireless phone subscribers numbered 18.5 million.
According to Ashley Lubyk of the Clean Calgary Association, "Our consumption of this technology has to be dramatically curbed." She says the average household has two to three old cell phones awaiting disposal. Competitive market forces, however, are only increasing consumption rates. Most cell phones are sold with one, two or three-year contracts, after which time the carrier will attempt to retain its customer with offers of better airtime packages and/or a new cell phone. The competition, meanwhile, attempts to lure new customers with the same enticements better airtime packages or new cell phones.
Add to this an ever-expanding list of capabilities beyond voice including television, camera, music, Internet, e-mail, games, text messaging, ringtones, electronic payment and global positioning. A new trendy colour or design can even be enough to get a customer to toss their current phone in favour of a new one.
The tactics are working. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cell phones are only kept for 18 months before being disposed of a situation thats helping to create annual revenues of more than $11 billion across the Canadian wireless industry. With just one per cent of cell phones being recycled, a situation is also being created at Canadian landfills; persistent toxins are threatening groundwater and surrounding land.
Lubyk says increasing the rate at which cell phones are recycled is only addressing a small part of a larger problem. Resources are being pulled from war torn and environmentally sensitive areas to make cell phones and recycling simply cannot recover these resources. Other answers could include federal regulations imposing a polluter-pay principle on cell phone manufacturers. As well, the full lifecycle of cell phones could be built into the purchase price.
Last month, number portability legislation passed enabling customers to switch carriers and keep their phone number. This kind of legislation is one step towards protecting consumers. It shows that federal regulators are sensitive to consumer demands and may respond if consumers decide the wireless industry should clean up its act environmentally.
In the meantime, consumers can do some cleaning up on their own. Despite number portability, some wireless carriers operate on different technologies (analog, digital, GSM), meaning that if you switch carriers, youll still need a new phone, so do some research to find out which technology best suits your needs and which carrier has the best plan for you. Purchase a phone that will serve you for a few years by considering durability, water-resistance, features and components. Decrease the energy needs of your phone by getting a solar-powered battery or a manual crank recharging device (three minutes of squeezing a hand-powered device can provide 20 minutes of talk time). Also, when offered a new phone, ask your provider to offer a new battery, bonus airtime or other comparable incentives resist the temptation to get a new phone. When it is time to retire your phone, find a place to have it recycled, reconditioned or donated. Clean Calgary accepts cell phones for recycling at its EcoStore located at 809 - 4 Avenue S.W.