Short Circuit: Gaia Reports On
The True Cost Of Our Gadgets

The Houses of Parliament was a fitting venue for the launch of a new report called Short Circuit, which looks at the current lifecycle of our electronic gadgets and the true cost to the earth. It was released by The Gaia Foundation and allies; African Biodiversity Network; London Mining Network; Mining Watch Canada; OCMAL; Oilwatch Africa PIPLinks & Climate Revolution; and was supported by the EC.

The Gaia Foundation 'Illustration by Roanna Rahman

The Gaia Foundation
Illustration by Roanna Rahman

Short Circuit follows on from an earlier report by Gaia, called Opening Pandora’s Box, which exposed the alarming rate of growth of the extraction industry, and the rise of land grabbing and community displacement across the globe.


Kennecott Bingham Canyon Mine / Hemera / Thinkstock

This latest report highlights the world’s surge in consumerism of gadgets, such as smartphones and laptops. It presents the true cost to the environment of mineral and metal extraction, the exploitative working conditions during production, and the consequent mountains of e-waste, which are being shipped abroad.


Image via Shutterstock

We have an increasingly throw away culture and, with the number of mobile devices expected to outnumber humans by the end of 2013, we should remember the impact that buying the “next latest model” is having on the earth’s finite resources.

The Gaia Foundation

The Gaia Foundation

It’s time to take a look at how we consume and rethink the life cycle of our gadgets. Outdated devices, along with the minerals and metals within them, are all too often discarded in favour of something new. Manufacturers have little or no plan for future reuse or recycling.


The report points out that one tonne of mobile phones yields over 50Kg of copper, compared to one tonne of ore yielding less than 4Kg. Mining operations all use finite fossil fuels, they require huge amounts of earth to be moved and water to be used in processing.


Image via Shutterstock

Electronics companies plan obsolescence into their development cycles to ensure a constant demand from their markets, but with sales of mobile devices expected to exceed 10 billion within five years, there’s increasing pressure on the earth’s resources.


Image via Shutterstock

The report seeks to highlight the true cost of our electronic items, not just in terms of the source of the materials used, but also the human cost of failures to manage recycling, with the consequential damage to those groups working in the poorly organised and ill-regulated e-waste industries.


Child miners in the DRC / Sasha Lezhnev / Enough Project

We are encouraged to use our position as customers to call for a redesign, to re-evaluate our desire to ‘own more stuff’ and consider what it is that we really need.

See the full report here.