Initially, as a larger group, we posted some suggestions for topics. Out of this we split into two groups with our group focusing on an environmental theme. Planning this project, completely online and without any in-person meetings, was complicated, but thanks to the commitment of all the group members we managed to video-chat regularly. From the outset, our discussions were inclusive and everyone’s ideas were given due consideration. We all had different ideas, but through individual compromises and brainstorming we found common ground. It was good to have agreement on the topic before attending Peadar King’s workshops on making a documentary as they really helped us to focus on what to include in the script. Each member of the group took a scene for the documentary script to research and write. We created a format in Google Docs which allowed us to ensure a continuous flow through the scenes.
The script is framed through an environmental lens with a focus on sustainable consumption and management of e-waste. We also wanted to make the connection between our (the global North) consumption and usage of electronics to the mining industry, specifically cobalt mining in DRC.
Scene 1 – introduction
Relaxing background music, a woman looks at her old phone, right next to her is an open journal with an ad for the latest smartphone.
Narrator : – Do any of you really know the “life” of your mobile phone?
She compares her phone and the new phone, and suddenly she remembers something. She stands up and walks to a drawer. She takes a deep breath and slowly opens it. It is filled with old phones, cables, chargers – relics of the past. She is about to put her newest “old” phone in and stops-
Narrator : Don’t you want to know where your mobile phone is from?
She sits down again, her mobile phone in her hand, she googles “old mobile phones”. She scrolls down, websites pop up about recycling, refurbishment and NHOs. She finds an Irish Times article “The Blood on your Phone why you must Recycle your old Mobile”.
Narrator: Let’s find out what the REAL cost of your mobile phone is!
She opens a video, the camera hovers over her shoulder and zooms in on her mobile phone video.
Cut to the video.
The reader sees a short montage of the working conditions of miners in DRC. The wastewater poisoning the rivers and drinking water, children working hard. Cobalt being harvested from the mines, then sent to the factories, put in the smartphone, sent to shops, and the camera is pointing back to her hand. Zoom out from her phone. She is shocked, and the camera moves right in front of her. We see her scrolling through her phone. Her phone chimes, a friend of her calls.
Laura : Hii Izzy! Did you buy that new phone yet? You have been complaining about yours for so long!
Izzy : Oh Laura! I just looked up what I could do with my old phones and learned so much about the environmental impact. I seriously reconsider buying a new one…
Laura : It can’t be that bad! I mean, look at the size of it, it’s… just a piece of metal.
Izzy : But the conditions the miners have to endure are horrendous! The mines poison the water, there’s child labour and exploitations –
Laura : Oh god! No stop, I don’t even want to know more about this!
Izzy : But you should… it is so bad, it really affects everyone.
Laura : What will you do now? With your old phones?
Izzy : The good news is that I found some website about recycling, donating it, or repairing the one I have right now. For once, I want to do the “right” thing and be aware of how my decisions can have far-reaching consequences on others.
Laura : You should look into that! I have to go now, make the right decision!
Izzy : I will! Goodbye!
They hang up, end the split screen, focus on Izzy.
She clicks on the first link, a website for a repair shop.
Scene 2 – repair shop
The camera looks over Izzy’s shoulder as she looks up “electronic repairs”, there are many repair shops offering a variety of services. She clicks on the link for the website of a nearby repair shop and decides to take her old phones there… She grabs the bundle of old phones.
Cut to the repair shop. Izzy walks up to the counter, and takes out her phones. She has a Sony Ericsson K550, a Samsung Galaxy A8 with a cracked screen, an iPhone 7 with a broken screen, and a Huawei P20 with water damage.
Izzy : Hello! I wanted to ask whether you could repair some of my old phones.
Repair Person : Of course, let’s take a look.
They look at the phones. He puts two old phones on the left (Sony Ericsson and the Samsung) and the other two on the right (iPhone 7 and the Huawei P20)
After some deliberation…
Repair Person: Those two are too old to do anything with, we don’t have replacement screens or batteries for older models. I am sorry about that, but the manufacturers keep changing products and the parts become obsolete within just a few years.
He slides a Sony Ericsson and the Samsung over to Izzy.
Repair Person: But these two, I can repair. This iPhone 7’s screen is broken, we can easily replace it. Water damage to the Huawei may take time to dry out, we can get it working again, but it will only need a new battery.
Izzy: A few hours? That’s quick!
Repair Person: Yeah! I am glad that you came here before buying a new smartphone, most people buy the newest version every year. That is such a shame when their phone is completely repairable.If only people were aware of the raw materials and natural resources that are wasted every year, because people just buy new ones, not realising how easy and cost-effective it is to repair the mobile phones they already own.
Izzy : As long as it is not more expensive than a new phone!
Repair Person: We never charge more than the value of a phone, since the introduction of a new EU-law it is actually illegal to charge more for a repair than the actual value of the phone. The price always depends on what model you have and the extent of the damage, we are happy to offer prices that encourage people to choose the repair option.
Izzy : That’s a good initiative! Thank you so much for your help and advice!
Dialogue inaudible, we see Izzy leaving two phones at the repair shop and walking out.
She goes back home,and looks up alternatives.
She clicks on a recycling link.
Scene 3 : recycling
She opens the WEEE website and finds the address for her local recycling plant. She picks up her phone. Cut to her entering the recycling plant.
Recycling plant worker: Good after-noon, how may I help you?
Izzy: Hello! I have some questions about recycling my old phones. Could I ask you some questions about the topic?
Izzy: Thank you. How important is it really that I recycle my phone instead of just throwing it into the refuse? After all it’s such a small object, it can’t be that bad.
Blend to the inner part of the recycling part. A pile of mobiles is pulled apart, with the RPS voice in the background.
RPW : It is crucial that you recycle your phone! Every phone that is not recycled is polluting the environment and wastes important resources that could have been used in new phones. Here we can safely take your phone apart and instead of putting them into a landfill or burning it.
Izzy: Wait, do I have to pay for the recycling?
Close up to the gold being pulled apart and put into boxes, being weighted and similar material
RPW: No, it’s completely free, you just have to drop by and hand it in, or you can check with your community whether you can just hand it to them. Your phone is filled with precious metals like gold, cobalt, and platin. When we recycle your phone, we extract those metals and sell them to other companies, this reduces the harmful mining all around the world!
Izzy: Wow that sounds good!
Camera back to the two talking
RPW: Alternatively, you can always donate your phone to an NGO who will donate the profit for people in need!
Izzy: That’s a great idea! Thank you so much for your help!
She leaves the mobile phone on the counter and walks out.
Cut to scene 4
Scene 4 : Donating
Izzy looks up different NGOs online, scrolling through different initiatives.
Narrator: Trying to tackle the e-waste crisis, multiple initiatives have started accepting mobile phones as donations. They collect excess or abandoned technology from businesses that are no longer using it.
Izzy scrolls through Google, hundreds of NGOs show up
Narrator: One of the local services is Promise IT to Rehab Recycle
Cut to a small group from Promise IT to Rehab Recycle, waving into the camera smiling.
Cut to members of the organization renovating a laptop/phone
Narrator: Promise IT is a commercial donations platform that enables businesses to donate safe IT equipment to classrooms, foundations, and local organizations.
Cut to another member of the staff giving the laptop/phone to some students.
Narrator: But there are hundreds of NGOs where you can donate your old phone to. They can either refurbish your phone and give it to someone in need or extract their precious metals and sell those.
Izzy clicks at medic.org
Narrator: one of those organisations is medic.org, shipping your old phone to be recycled or refurbished and used to fund an open-source software and support health workers across Africa and Asia.
Cut to Izzy sending off her last mobile phone. She closes her empty drawer, a calm music sets in. Black screen a white contrasting writing appears.
“Don’t shelf your old phones, help someone else”