Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Is Your Smart Phone's Tin Case Destroying the Entire Earth?

Put a tropical fish cover on your iPhone to hide the metal mined from this island where the tropical fish are being killed.The iPhone and the Samsung phone (sPhone?) are very good technological devices primarily because they have shiny metal on the backside, underneath the plastic case you bought to protect the shiny metal from smudges or scratches. But is the mining of this metal destroying a beautiful Eden-like Indonesian island? Probably! Friends of the Earth did a six-month-long investigation (PDF) of the Appalachian-style tin mining operations on Bangka Island, where a massive industrial operation is "destroying forests, farmland and coral reefs, injuring miners and driving away fish and marine life." All so you can put an "Otterbox" over the shiny metal!

Apple and Samsung "neither confirmed nor denied this," according to the meddling environmental group. So … feel vaguely guilty about your tin smart phone, we guess? On the next Black Friday, maybe you can buy a smart phone made completely of organic garbage.

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Steven@twitter (#239,726)

Apple doesn't use tin in the exterior of any of their products (except perhaps in trace quantities as part of the stainless steel alloy in the metal band around iPhone 4/4S, although that seems unlikely.) Where they (and all other global electronics manufacturers) use tin is in their lead-free solder. Lead free solder is required by EU Directive:

This mine destroying the island a vital environmental concern, but the only reason Apple (and Samsung, who I'm sure doesn't use tin except as part of their solder, since it's not practical otherwise) were ever included in the "Friends of the Earth" press release is because they get page views and visibility for their cause. Wouldn't it be better journalism to let people know that this is a public policy issue rather than a manufacturer's capricious fashion? Maybe then we could effect change to require tin-and-lead-free solders, or to close this particular tin mine, or to fund research into other tin-free solders that are suitable for consumer electronics.

Steven@twitter (#239,726)

Turns out, 90% of what I was saying is actually in Friends of the Earth's press release. So, is just The Awl editorializing in that ingenuous uninformed-but-not-really-wink-wink style?

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