Fairphone Addresses Mobile Device Sustainabiliy Issues

Fairphone positions its first product as "A seriously cool smartphone that puts social values first." The Netherlands-based company's phone addresses two important Green ICT issues for mobile devices: conflict minerals and e-waste.

Conflict minerals are the precious metal ores that are critical to our e-devices but that fuel conflict in central Africa. Fairphone states, "We [are] sourcing raw materials that don’t fund armed forces or violent conflicts, from mines that treat people like the human beings they are...Our soldering paste uses tin from conflict-free mines in the South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)...The tantalum in our capacitors is extracted from coltan sourced from Mai Baridi, Kisengo and Luba – conflict-free mines located in the northern part of the Katanga Province, DRC."

The 19+ billion edge devices attached to our global ICT infrastructure generate a huge amount of electronic waste at end-of-life. Much of this e-waste is dumped and/or dangerously recycled in developing economies.. Fairphone's initial approach to e-waste: "Our phones are just starting their lives, so our first recycling efforts will focus on other phones already in circulation. For every Fairphone sold, €3 is reserved for setting up projects in countries where safe e-waste recycling is not yet facilitated."

Fairphone's focus on Africa's locally-generated is timely. The Guardian reported in April 2014, "The increasing amounts of digital tech brought by middle-class consumers in China, India and Africa is a growing part of the problem. If the trend continues, the annual amount of global e-waste will be 65m tonnes by 2017." Fairphone posted that, as of August 2014, it had collected 75,000 scrap phones in Ghana. Ghana is home to Agbogbloshie, one of the world's largest e-waste dumps.

The Fairphone is Android-based and lists at €310. It is a 2014 Sustainia 100 winner.

Image courtesy of Fairphone