A recent report says that the active smartphones in 2023 have reached around 6.5 billion units. An article reported that an average smartphone has a carbon footprint of about 60 kg CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, which is the same as 250 km of car travel or 50 km of airplane travel. Such numbers demand primacy for sustainability.
With carbon and greenhouse gas emissions at an all-time high, the mobile industry should place achieving Net Zero as the central agenda for their plan of work.
How to strive towards Net Zero?
Here are 4 steps to that strives companies towards achieving Net Zero.
1) Longevity and refurbishing of existing devices
Refurbishing an outdated phone can significantly reduce emissions and lead companies towards net zero. In fact, according to a GSMA report, extending the lifespan of all smartphones worldwide by just one year could reduce carbon emissions by the same amount that would have been removed if 4.7 million cars were taken off the road by 2030. In the first year of use, a brand-new smartphone emits approximately 85 kg of emissions on average. Therefore, it is obvious that increasing the lifespan of individual phones will be essential to lowering emissions and taking companies one step closer to net zero.
2) Renewable Energy Adoption
Shifting to renewable energy can help manufacturers reach their Net Zero goals faster by reducing their carbon emissions and footprints. By using renewable energy sources like solar and wind, the carbon footprint per unit can be brought down significantly. According to a GSMA report, purchasing renewable energy now accounts for 24% of the electricity utilized by operators worldwide in 2022, up from 18% in 2021 and 14% in 2020. For example, In Uganda, mobile network operator MTN has installed 240,000 solar home systems delivering clean and affordable energy to two million people.
3) Adopting new technologies
The creation and manufacturing phase of a smartphone’s lifecycle accounts for about 80% of its carbon emissions and footprint. As production and manufacturing contribute the most to the carbon footprint of a smartphone, using advanced and energy-efficient equipment and solutions can help reduce emissions significantly. For example, by using liquid cooling instead of air-cooling systems like the one from Nokia, manufacturers can save up to 30% on operational costs and 70% on power consumption.
To lower power consumption at the equipment level, operators should implement the latest generation of equipment and use efficient cooling technology. The newer units are half the size and 30% lighter than the typical active air conditioning systems used at cell sites.
By deploying 5G networks and the subsequent infrastructure for it, power consumption might be lowered by as much as 70%. It results in a 50% boost in power efficiency since internal MIMO antenna components are made of gallium nitride (GaN).
4) E-waste management
The ever-growing smartphone market simultaneously grows electronic garbage at a very high pace. The World Economic Forum projects that the yearly generation of electronic trash will be up to 120 million tones by 2050.
Minimizing environmental impact can be achieved by putting into place efficient e-waste management programs, such as recycling and appropriate disposal of outdated equipment and gadgets that are no longer functional.