Journal of Material Cycles and Waste Management

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 100–109 | Cite as

Effect of technology development on potential environmental impacts from heavy metals in waste smartphones



Technology development has brought beneficial changes in the functions of smartphones but has the potential to impact the environment due to the high generation of waste smartphones. Thus, this study evaluates and compares environmental impact potentials from metals in waste smartphones to figure out the effect of smartphone model replacements on hazardous waste, resource depletion, and toxicity potentials. The total threshold limit concentration (TTLC) analysis is used to determine whether the waste smartphones would be classified as hazardous waste, and the life-cycle impact assessment methods are used to evaluate resource depletion, cancer, non-cancer, and ecotoxicity potentials. The TTLC results showed that the smartphone technology development did not reduce hazardous waste potentials. The life-cycle impact assessment results showed that the technology development overall reduced resource depletion potential but increased toxicity potential. In addition, priority metals contributing to the potentials were identified to effectively manage their environmental impacts. This study can provide fundamental information for smartphone manufacturers, waste smartphone recyclers and disposers, and e-waste policymakers to circulate resources and to prevent environmental pollutions from hazardous and toxic materials.


Environmental impact Metal Smartphone Technology development 



This research was supported by Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education (NRF-2014R1A1A2059556).

Supplementary material

10163_2016_548_MOESM1_ESM.docx (325 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 325 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Engineering, College of EngineeringKangwon National UniversityChuncheonSouth Korea
  2. 2.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringGwangju Institute of Science and TechnologyGwangjuSouth Korea
  3. 3.Department of Environmental EngineeringKyungpook National UniversityDaeguSouth Korea

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