Recently, the White House spoke out against changes to the
1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act that took effect in January and made it
illegal to unlock your cell phone. While many people who oppose the changes are
focused on personal freedom and convenience, there is also a green issue at
stake that should be mentioned.
The manufacturing of cell phones uses up vital minerals, which are in relatively short supply. The mining activities used to gather these minerals have had a detrimental effect on the planet and on the miners themselves, as many are forced into labor and work for little to no pay in impoverished locations throughout Africa. Every day, 426,000 cell phones are taken out of service in the United States, and since only 18 percent of used electronics are ever recycled, the majority of the minerals and other materials used to manufacture phones end up in landfills.
So why are so many phones discarded? Part of the problem is the ever-evolving technology behind our mobile devices that makes the hottest new cell phone outdated in a few years, but another part of the problem is changing carriers. The average person will find a new cell phone carrier at least once every four years, and without the ability to unlock their phones, these people are forced to purchase new ones, even if they are content with what they have.
The inability to unlock cell phones also makes it difficult to sell a used phone when you're finished with it or to give it to someone else to use. By removing the restrictions of the DMCA and promoting the idea of reusing electronics instead of throwing them away, we can greatly cut down on our consumption of minerals and decrease landfill waste.
If you're concerned about the negative environmental impact of the DMCA changes, we urge you to contact your U.S. representative and Senators and make your opinions known.