Tech fair highlights need for clean, green, sustainable gadgets

Gadgets with longer lifespans, upgradeable modular components, clean and green production technologies, and extended support by manufacturers from design and creation down to take-back and disposal, are not only more desirable, but would greatly benefit nature and society.

This was the overarching message in the technology fair, dubbed “#AnoiTech?!: Advocating Sustainable Mobile Technology”, which was held today by Greenpeace Philippines, together with partner organisations, at Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City.

Taking audiences through the lifecycle of mobile phones, the event demonstrated the true environmental and social costs of current industry practices and the prevailing mobile phone culture, which are currently dominated by planned obsolescence and no manufacturer responsibility in terms of clean manufacturing or disposal of e-wastes.

These are skewed against both end-users and the environment, thus the call for sustainable technology solutions from the industry and government to redefine innovation by using renewable energy, ensuring workers’ safety and gadget repairability, and by using closed-loop and toxic-free designs, production lines and product cycles.

“This fair comes at a perfect time when people are already set on Christmas shopping, including purchasing new phones or gadgets. We believe that Filipinos need to rethink the way they regard their mobile gadgets by looking at factors such as repairability and if they’re designed to last,” said Abigail Aguilar, Detox Campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.

Calling attention to possibilities for real change in the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector, or what Greenpeace refers to as #TrueInnovation, the fair focused on ways our favorite mobile equipment, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, are designed, made and used, including how existing technology already allows for clean production, longer end-of-life, and options for take-back, repair and recycling of gadgets and their components.

The fair, hosted by DJ Nadine Jacinto of RJFM 100, also featured e-waste art created by celebrated artists Tomas Leonor and Baguio-based junk artist Rommel Pidazo. The artwork was made from broken and unusable small electronics such as mobile phones and other gadgets collected from the public. Meds Marfil of True Faith also serenaded attendees and lent his name to the cause of raising awareness on the gravity and magnitude of the country’s e-waste problem.

“The Philippines is one of the countries that is at the tail end of the supply chain of electronic waste, receiving tonnes of end-of-life electronics from richer countries. Aside from these, we also generate volumes of e-waste domestically, which we do not have the capacity to manage. It is high time that this issue is addressed by the government and the industries by considering the informal waste sector in the whole equation,” Aguilar added.

A United Nations University report in 2014 showed that up to 3 million metric tons (Mt) of e-waste is generated from small IT products, such as mobile phones and personal computers. In the Philippines, we generated 127,000 kiloton of e-wastes, or 1.3 kg per person [1]. However, the Philippines is yet to have a national policy on dealing with electronic wastes and currently does not have any policy requiring industries to take-back, recycle or manage wastes from their products reaching end-of-life.

Greenpeace partnered with various non-profit organisations, like-minded groups and artists, such as Ban Toxics, Ecowaste Coalition, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Medecins du Monde, Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., and UP Circuit’s The E-Waste Project to start engaging the electronics sector. This is the first time that like-minded groups working on the various issues around electronics have come together to address the sector.

The groups will carry on with discussions and devise longer-term plans to address issues surrounding the electronics sector - from design and manufacturing to end-of life - including issues faced by the informal waste sector. They will start engaging with the government, communities and the industry, including legislation that will address e-waste, giving recognition to the role of the informal waste workers and requiring industries to enforce a take-back mechanism for the end-of-life of all its products.

Notes to the Editor:

[1] United Nations University study on e-waste can be found here.

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