In 2019, 33 million true wireless earbuds were sold, which are earbuds that do not have a connecting cord between them. And that figure is projected to rise. True wireless earbuds are anticipated to account for two-thirds of the earbuds market by 2023, according to research by Futuresource Consulting.
True wireless earbuds have become smaller, lighter, and more inexpensive as technology has advanced. Most individuals fall in love with how liberating they feel the first time they use them. But here’s the sad reality: virtually every one of those millions of pairs of earphones will end up in a landfill in a few years.
The unpleasant reality of rechargeable batteries
Your Bluetooth earphones’ batteries will ultimately lose their capacity to charge, even if they don’t physically break. This isn’t the result of some nefarious business scheme. All rechargeable batteries will ultimately run out of power. It’s merely a matter of physics. Batteries lose capacity over time when a coating of crystalline growth coats the interior walls of the battery. This ageing process increases electrical resistance, resulting in a steady decrease in the quantity of power available in the batteries each time they are completely charged.
The usage of non-replaceable rechargeable batteries in earphones is simple: it makes the earbuds smaller. Buyers of earbuds tend to want smaller gadgets, but this means the earbuds have less space inside for all of the required components. Designers must fit a Bluetooth chip and CPU, an antenna, a battery, drivers, controllers, and microphones into a thimble-sized device. Replaceable battery compartments need additional earbud real estate, and in a competitive market where small is king, firms don’t want to risk their earbuds becoming flops by making them bigger.
How long should the batteries in your earphones last?
It is debatable. Many factors, like how often you use your earphones, how frequently you charge and keep them plugged in, how often you expose them to severe temperatures, and how often you accept calls or use active noise cancellation, may affect battery life, as Mark outlined to us (both of which draw a high amount of power). As a result, a set of headphones that lasts two years for one individual may last closer to four years for another. But it’ll only be a matter of time before the technology death knell rings.
People who are used to the lifespan of wired headphones may be surprised by this fact. I’ve known folks who have used conventional wired headphones for a decade or more, as long as they kept them clean and maintained them on a regular basis. It might be a stomach hit to learn that your beloved $200 earphones may only last three years if you wear them every day. However, as technology advances, many individuals have become accustomed to their equipment being obsolete. They understand that phones and computers aren’t long-term investments. For headphone aficionados like me, the annual value of consistent usage may appear to be worth the purchase price.
But it’s the environmental impact that gets to me. People frequently throw broken earphones in the garbage (which you should never do, since it might result in a trash fire). Even individuals who make an effort to recycle properly may discover that the system they rely on to reduce and reuse is faulty. Only 20% of the world’s approximately 45 million metric tonnes of e-waste was recycled through proper routes, according to a 2017 United Nations Global E-waste Monitor study (PDF). Many “recyclers” transport e-waste to countries where it isn’t actually recycled.Although a limited percentage of useful pieces are reused and precious minerals are removed, this process has its own severe environmental consequences. Workers and those in the surrounding regions may be exposed to hazardous circumstances as a result of the current practises. For example, “bathing circuit boards in nitric and hydrochloric acid, thereby polluting rivers and communities” is one method of recovering gold (which is frequently used in electronics owing to its conductive properties). Everything that isn’t considered helpful gets thrown away.
What you can do to help
I struggle with this knowledge as a reusable-bag-toting, organic-produce-buying vegan with a child. I enjoy using wireless earphones and suggest them to others on a regular basis. But I also want to be a global citizen who is accountable. Fortunately, there are a few things that anybody can do to extend the life and value of your wireless headphones.
To begin, you may extend the life of the earphones you currently have. To do so, you should follow excellent battery-care practises. When you’re not using your headphones, turn them off. Unplug the cord after they’re fully charged. Also, if you’re planning to put your headphones away for a week or longer, read the handbook for any particular storage recommendations. They aren’t rubbish, even if they aren’t your everyday go-to headphones. When I forget to charge my favourite earphones, I prefer to keep a set like this on hand. You may also keep them at your desk, use them for travel (so you don’t have to worry about them becoming lost or stolen), or keep them as a loaner pair for friends and family. Alternatively, you might invest in a pair of wired-only headphones as a backup, knowing that they’ll outlast current Bluetooth choices by years.
Consider the initial battery capacity when purchasing genuine wireless earphones if you have your heart set on them. Take note of how long the earphones may be charged. The latest Bluetooth chipsets use less battery power, allowing for longer listening durations per charge. (Leaf Bass Headphones come with the latest bluetooth technology with one of the longest battery life, most comforting and super good looking in that price range.)
Increasing the battery capacity may theoretically extend the life of the headphones by allowing you to charge them less frequently. If you can put off buying a new set of earphones for a while, you could be rewarded with a purchase that lasts longer. However, as previously stated, this necessitates the use of proper pricing procedures.
What can manufacturers do?
Incorporating replacement batteries into truly wireless earbuds, according to Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, is certainly doable—if the manufacturers get on board. While certain truly wireless earbuds, like Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro, are unrepairable after the battery dies, others, like Samsung’s Galaxy Buds and Jabra’s Elite 75t, might be fixed with small design changes. Taylor Dixon of iFixit dismantled many Bluetooth earphones and discovered that the only thing prohibiting battery replacement was a change in adhesive or the use of battery clamps instead of solder.
In an ideal world, headphone makers would modify their designs, implement battery-swapping services, establish approved repair shops, and even sell branded DIY repair kits. Then, as technology advances, they might decrease their environmental impact and reward brand loyalty by offering free recycling programmes and discounts on new earphones in exchange for the recycling of an old pair.
Progress is conceivable, despite the current situation. Podswap, for example, is a company that refurbishes the millions of AirPods that require new batteries. Jon Chase of Wirecutter talked about replacing his first-generation AirPods for a new set with a fresh battery. (At the moment, Podswap can only exchange AirPods from the first and second generations.) While this is only one model of one brand of earbud, it is a proof of concept that may significantly extend the battery life of battery-powered earphones if additional businesses or brands follow suit.
Wireless earphones aren’t going away, but they do need to become more environmentally friendly. Perhaps, with a little help from all of us, brands will start to make adjustments that will make a genuine impact.
Guest article written by: Vivek Roy is an enthusiastic Tech and gadget blogger from India. He loves to share tips and news from all around the world. For more information about him visit his website Leaf Studios.