Is a smartphone more like a car or a pair of socks? When you buy a car, you accept the inconvenience of maintaining something that will last for many years. When you buy a pair of socks, you just want something that makes your ankles look natty and keeps your feet warm. Unless you are particularly frugal or have a passion for darning, most socks are destined for the dustbin the moment a toe pokes through.
For the last 20 years, mobile phones have been treated much like socks. A Greenpeace survey this summer found that consumers in the United States, Russia, Mexico, Germany, China and South Korea own, on average, more than four mobiles each. Hundreds of thousands of phones are discarded each day, and the UN forecast that global electronic waste (or e-waste) would grow by a third over the last three years.
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