World Ocean Day is a day that promotes the protection and conservation of the ocean, which is critical to the survival of human beings on land. The ocean covers more than 70% of the earth's surface, and it produces more than half of the world's oxygen. It regulates our climate by transporting heat from the equator to the poles, and it provides us with an array of food ingredients and medicinal products. In fact, the ocean-based economy is a huge contributor to the global economy, as more than 3 billion people have livelihoods which are dependent on it. In fact, the value of the global ocean-based economy is estimated at being somewhere between $3 trillion and $6 trillion a year. It is therefore vital that we do what we can to protect the ocean, especially in regard to reducing plastic pollution.
Plastic pollution can be understood as the accumulation of plastic debris in the environment, which often leads to the harm of organisms and their habitats. Many people who think of plastic pollution might immediately associate it with Blue Planet, a nature documentary series narrated by Sir David Attenborough. This series has been credited with raising awareness of plastic pollution both in the United Kingdom (UK) and beyond, a catalyst known as the 'Blue Planet effect'. In April 2018, in response to the rise of public support relating to the Blue Planet series, the British government announced it may eventually be introducing a nationwide ban on single-use plastic. The 'Blue Planet effect' is unprecedented, with more of us than ever seeking to cut down our plastic use.
With an increasing number of us now demanding other materials to replace plastic due to our concern for the impact that it is having on the environment, many industries are now expected to comply and replace their plastic usage with different materials. This applies to the mobile tech industry, with smartphone manufacturers now under pressure to reduce their harmful impact on the environment.
Apple have made a concerted effort to integrate sustainability across all areas of their business activities, which is encouraging. In terms of their plastic usage, they have managed to reduce it by 48%, according to their annual Environmental Responsibility Report. Starting with the iPhone 7 and the iPad Pro, they have also changed the plastic tray in the packaging to an all molded fiber alternative. The iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iMac Pro, MacBook Air, iPad mini and iPad Pro now come in majority-fibre packaging, and in March 2019, Apple also transitioned to 100% fiber retail bags in stores. These bags are comprised of a knitted paper handle and 80% recycled fibre.
Samsung have also announced that they will be taking steps this year to replace their plastic packaging with sustainable materials. In 2019, Samsung introduced packaging used for their products and accessories made from recyclable and biodegradable materials. For their mobile phones, tablets and wearable tech, Samsung have said that they will be replacing the plastic used in holder trays with molded pulp. They will also be changing their phone charger design by eliminating plastic protection films, and the plastic bags used to protect the surface of various products will be replaced with bags made of recycled and biodegradable materials.
While Apple and Samsung have been responding to the increasing demands to move towards sustainability, there is still much further to go in terms of eradicating plastic pollution entirely. It will undoubtedly take government interventions and large-scale efforts to tackle this issue. Within the mobile tech industry specifically, there is certainly more that needs to be done, especially with most companies remaining silent about the specifics that they are doing to reduce their impact on the environment if any. But at least with Apple and Samsung as market leaders, there is hope that other companies will follow suit.
Cover photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash
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