Love the new iPhone 5 but hate the waste? Apple is notorious for releasing new versions of its products and accessories that loyal customers must buy to keep up.
In this case, the seemingly subtle design alterations of the iPhone 5 will lead to a massive — and expensive — overhaul of the entire iFamily, adding to the already 20-30 million tons of e-waste generated each year. However, with a little creative repurposing, we wastehaters can avert some of that trash. Here’s the scoop.
Goodbye 30-Pin Connector
Among the iPhone 5’s many new features, Apple replaced its 30-pin connector with a smaller 9-pin version. The so-called Lightning connector will also be used for the new iPod Touch, iPod Nano, and most likely all future iFamily products. While it’s great that this new technology is sleeker, sturdier and reversible, all pre-iPhone 5 devices can’t use it.
What does this all mean?
Those alarm clocks with iPhone 4s hook ups that are in nearly every hotel room across the country are now outdated. Those speakers that blast music from your iPod will need replacing. Everything from car chargers to medical devices will become obsolete — yikes!
Thankfully, Apple is also releasing an adapter so that the iPhone 5 can connect to the old accessories. It costs $29 and is sold separately from the smartphone. However, the adapter will not support all 30-pin devices. Some accessories will need to be completely replaced which you guessed it, means more waste.
If you do plan on upgrading to the iPhone 5, you can receive an Apple store credit by turning in your old iPhone to Apple’s recycling program.
Old Covers, But Not New Waste
The second feature of the iPhone 5 that will lead to more trash may not be so obvious. While the smartphone’s new size makes it the thinnest phone in the world, it also means all those plastic covers we bought to protect our iPhone 4s and previous generations will no longer fit. With the iPhone 5’s thinner, lighter, and a drop longer size, our old covers will have to be replaced.
But that doesn’t mean they have to wind up in the local landfill!
Wastehaters that we are, we’ve been dreaming up some new uses for the soon to be obsolete generation of iPhone covers.
For instance, how about a nifty little tray to hold votives?
They’d make a great “coaster” to prevent furniture from scratching the floor.
Or an easy-to-clean place to put your salt and pepper shakers.
Ta- DA! Our personal favorite, a picture frame and Christmas tree decoration all-in-one. (Pic of Jacquie’s Godchild not included.)
What about you?
How might you repurpose your own soon-to-be-outdated iPhone cover? Let us know. We’ll publish the best ones next month.
Apple and all computer and mobile phone makers should have apps that give owners recycling and reuse/re-purpose options. My Apple dock has a trash can to delete software/docs, etc. from the computer. Next to it, or maybe as a pulldown on the trash menu, should be a way to learn about where to put the hardware.
A timely and useful post! I absolutely love the creative ideas for using iPhone covers!
My fave idea is the pic frame/ornament! Very clever.
Will people really consider waste as part of their buying decision with the iphone 5 (waste of their money buying new accessories and creating waste that ends up in landfills or as e-waste)? or other gadgets? I tend to think this is low on people’s decision-making list – unfortunately, but hopefully this mindset is changing. Anyway, if being “environmentally-unhealthy” is not going to sway buyers, then at least there should be massive recycling efforts made easily available and communicated to all buyers at the time of purchase, and discussed in reviews, along with ‘features, cost, convenience, etc.’. “How to dispose of your old gadget easily and responsibly” should appear prominently on websites that sell these things. People can sometimes even get cash back.
Maybe I’m naive about the business issues impacting all of this, but I’m sure there were obstacles before recycling aluminum cans became the norm. Hoping that someday very soon, ”environmental impact’ becomes part of most consumers’ thought process when buying anything, from toilet paper to a car! I’m not expecting people to give up convenience, enjoyment, etc., but I do believe if everyone made small changes then it would have a huge positive impact.
Here are some interesting articles I found about the iphone 5, that address the environmental aspect: http://bit.ly/iphonewaste, http://www.waste-management-world.com/index/display/article-display/4461481513/articles/waste-management-world/recycling/2012/09/Will_Apple_s_iPhone_5_Launch_Benefit_E-Waste_Recyclers.html, http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/design-architecture/iphone-5-adds-waste-to-the-e-waste-problem/8680
BTW, I have an iPhone 4S and I love it. In some small way it helps me reduce waste in at least one way – I take quick pics of documents and papers i might otherwise have printed.
This post is just the kind we Wastewatchers need to help spur innovation and alternative uses for products that companies like Apple make obsolete with their new, profit incentivized, changes. There is no reason, besides money, that Apple needs to create a new 9-pin charger. Hopefully this is the last switch they make in this department. As consumers we need to demand that profit driven switches like this are not OK. Unfortunately, the power of Apple and the aura around Apple’s new products are too powerful to conquer. The only way I can see this being prevented in the future is by using the power we have as consumers and our freedom of speech to boycott, or at least protest, these kinds of changes. Someday, Apple will see that it is more important to prevent the waste associated with a new charger and new phone size, than it is to make money off of the new products these changes create.
One idea that came to mind for the future: an adjustable phone case. This product will be able to expand and shrink in all directions to fit all phones iPhones, now and in the future. While I do not have the resources to create such a case right now, I think that it could be a great invention for someone with the means to create it. The next iPhone will probably have different dimensions than the iPhone 5, so let’s get ahead of Apple and create a case that will never need to be replaced. Seems like something that will be profitable and save a lot of waste.
In the mean time, I really like the alternative uses proposed in this post. The aesthetically pleasing nature of the cases makes them a viable option for almost any decoration, and their durability allows them to be used in practical functions like the aforementioned coaster.
The picture frame is a fantastic idea! Personally, I use one of my older iPhone cases as a business card holder, it’s sitting right on my desk as I type!
Apple is getting a lot of flack for all their updates and hardware changes with the iPhone 5, but if it didn’t happen now it would eventually. Tech advances wait for no one, except the money counters that is. There are plenty of adaptors in the works to cover the areas Apple isn’t taking care of, but they are from non-Apple providers. Guess it’ll be an instance of “buyer beware.”
The salt/pepper shaker idea is great too, but then again I’m a sucker for anything food and kitchen related.
It makes sense that a connector used by most iPod designs and all iPads and iPhones would be replaced, just as the older FireWire connectors were replaced by the 30-pin connectors we use today. That said, I’m happy I’m not the one who has to upgrade all the hook-ups in hotels across the world. You must have heard the managers’ screams of anguish up and down the Las Vegas strip!
Figuring out what to do with old iPhones should be important both to consumers and Apple. iPhones have a lot of environmental sunk costs: 55kg of CO2 emissions due to production, transport, customer use, and recycling of an iPhone 4– the equivalent of using 22 gallons of gasoline in a car (the iPhone5 is even more costly: 75kg of CO2 emissions). Considering the environmental cost of making each iPhone, old devices should stay in operation as long as possible. Apple does not do near enough to facilitate a second hand market, but thankfully there are electronic resale markets like gazelle.com that make it easy to but and sell used iPhones, keeping working items in circulation instead of in landfills.
I love all the suggestions for what to do with the covers! I wonder if we can use the same wehatetowaste creativity to figure out what to do with the old iPhone4-to-USB cords. I imagine them being lashed together and used as a rope in some sort of fast-paced adventure film about e-waste, but that might be too specific. Maybe other commenters can come up with more realistic uses for them…
Those are some staggering figures on Apple’s environmental impact! Of course technology is always progressing but it’s great to see programs available for reselling, repurposing, and reusing old devices. Even the United States Postal Service is getting involved in averting e-waste. Check out their recycling program…https://www.usps.com/ship/recycle-through-usps.htm
And let us know if you’ve thought up a different way to repurpose your old iPhone cover! We’ll publish the best ideas next month!
I am pleasantly surprised to see that someone else uses old cell phone cases on furniture legs! I acquired a beautiful desk a few years ago and the only issue it had was that one leg was slightly two short. Fortunately for me, its previous owner didn’t enjoy the back and forth rattle of a heavy wooden desk so I found myself with a lovely desk and new DIY project. I tried various solutions for “fixing” the leg- felt pads, cardboard pieces, stacking magazines under it, even rolled up socks! Every method- even the eyesore socks- worked well for a few days then slowly sank under the weight of the desk. It wasn’t until I had to upgrade my phone (nothing like a cracked screen to motivate you) that I realized I had a case that didn’t fit my new phone and was now rendered useless. The plastic was durable- perhaps enough not for protecting my phone, but it could be useful for something else. It now serves as the buffer between the peg leg on my desk and my hardwood floors. Thanks to the case I was able to repurpose two items and assure that this desk gets mileage for many years to come.
I’ve only owned one iPhone case so far, but the main reason I haven’t bought another is because mine still works fine! This post is very creative, but I don’t really see why a perfectly usage iPhone case would be discarded to begin with. However, the ideas for future uses are very clever!
Erin, perhaps the post was unclear. When the iPhone 5 came out it was much longer than previous versions, suggesting that anyone trading up would need to buy a new case too. So whither all those old (shorter) cases? Michelle and Jacquie were trying to make a few #Upcycled suggestions!
I think that one of the underlying issues here is our need to consistently have the newest and latest technology, and to impulsively purchase more than we actually need (yes, I know how fun it is to have a different iPhone case for every day of the week, but really). I think an excellent counter-comparison would be Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company, which not only has an excellent product repair policy, but has partnered with eBay to resell worn clothing. Finally, a company that has truly and successfully integrated environmentalism into its business model! See link below for more information:
Repurpose cellphone cases as fine art! iPhone cases with cool pictures, patterns, etc., can be put in picture frames, mounted on canvas etc, and hung on a wall or used to decorate a corner of a study nook or work-cubicle. They can also be hung from a rearview mirror — car art!
Pretty stupid idea to put t-lights on a PLASTIC phone case, those things get bloody hot and will melt and likely ignite the case.
Don’t burn your house down.
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