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    Posted September 21, 2015 by
    San Luis Obisop, California

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    The Throwaway Society

    It’s upgrade season again in the United States. Apple announced the new iPhone 6s device to an insatiable crowd of fanboys, press and everyday consumers. In doing so they also kicked off what could be coined the yearly upgrade season. Following the Apple announcement Google announced their own press event where they’ll be unveiling new phones, devices, and software. Amazon also released a “new” Kindle Fire device bundle for a comfortable low price of fifty dollars. Yet amidst all the noise surrounding these latest and greatest announcements there’s an important message that is getting lost: America is leading the world deeper into a throwaway society.

    In countries like Ghana there’s a former wetland called Agbogbloshie, and if that name isn’t mind boggling enough for you what happens there will be. Agbogbloshie is at the center of a e-waste operation for industrialized nations. Millions of tons of e-waste are processed each year at this cesspool where locals compare it to “Sodom and Gomorrah”. Kids no older than 13 and sometimes 9 years old spend their days running through piles of burning plastic and debris all to earn a living. Within that pile are heaps of old computers or new(ish) phones; Beneath the pretty plastic exterior are scraps of copper and other precious metals that can be sold. The very same manufacturers who produce this e-waste and the countries they came in from market many of their latest flagship devices as ‘green’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘reusable’ and us consumers eat it up.

    Apple pleased it’s shareholders last quarter with a healthy $18 billion in profit. In a recent interview with Late Show host Stephen Colbert, CEO Tim Cook explained why Apple has turned to focus more on charity recently:

    “We want to leave the world better than we found it.”

    At the same time his company is contributing to one of the world’s largest e-waste dumps in history. And with the latest Apple Upgrade plan (pay a monthly fee and get a new phone yearly) joining the ranks of carrier upgrade plans like AT&T Next and T-Mobile JUMP, among others, it’s only making things worse. As consumers reach for that shiny new device we’re forgetting the very important fact that we’re voluntarily contributing to the throwaway society within which kids’ health is put at risk, illegal materials recycling operations are profiting and once lush and vibrant communities are being reduced to wastelands. Think Wall-E waste but real and without the happy ending…that is what we are heading towards.

    We simply cannot sustain the amount of devices we are creating and the subsequent e-waste we are sending to landfills like Agbogbloshie. The notion that because it’s not in our country we don’t have to care does not make the problem any less real or the need for a solution any less crucial. We’ve tried convincing the manufactures to change but they only bend to the will of the consumer. What this problem needs for a solution is a consumer revolution. As consumers we have to demand that manufacturers either make our products more valuable (and thus settle for more expensive) or that they make the products more repairable so that we can fix and upgrade their components. Disposability is a choice, not a physical characteristic and plastics aren’t inherently evil but we’re using them wrong. Treat them and their accompanying mechanics with respect. That is when change begins to take hold.
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