The FireTV stick is a revolutionary little gadget; your ability to watch movies and access a variety of streaming services on any TV as opposed to a phone or computer is now portable in the convenient form of a small HDMI flash drive and compact remote equipped with Alexa voice controls. For its capabilities, its price also seems fairly modest and accessible to the average consumer. However, its shortcomings lay predominantly in the raw materials utilized to make the FireTV stick (and subsequently, the processes necessary to produce such raw materials) and the integrity of the company that manufactures it. All in all, if you have a computer or a phone, the purchase of a FireTV stick does not constitute a necessity.
From inspecting my own FireTV stick and remote, it appears that both are made of a plastic-y material, though it is difficult to officially verify the raw components of the set. The FireTV stick remote also requires two AAA batteries, which if disposed of incorrectly (as much e-waste is) is highly detrimental to the environment as it contains lithium, which can be toxic, and releases greenhouse gases during photo-decomposition in landfills. While this hazard could potentially be remedied by using rechargeable batteries, it may require environmentally-conscious consumers to make an extra purchase.
The environmental harms of plastic are not little-known facts; not only does their production release harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases, one of the major drawbacks resides in the fact that it does not decompose. This may mean durability for the product, so consumers can help mitigate some of its harms by simply keeping it out of landfills. However, it also means that in an age of constantly upgrading technology and quick cycling through different products, these little gadgets may be thrown out as consumers opt for replacements. The hazards of doing so are brought into sharper focus if we also consider the fact that large percentages of e-waste are not properly disposed of. While it only constitutes 2-3% of our municipal solid waste, it comprises roughly 70% of our toxic waste. Thus, from a waste-oriented standpoint, the FireTV stick set is far from meeting sustainability criteria.
The FireTV Sticks are produced and manufactured by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., better known as Foxconn which is a Taiwan-based electronics contract manufacturer. It boasts a massive reputation in the tech world, manufacturing items from the iPhone to the Xbox. Foxconn has pledged to make environmental sustainability “one of their long-term goals'' and it has been “implemented in their daily operations,” but it is difficult to gauge how they do so specifically and the resources they allocate to such initiatives. In terms of worker conditions and labor, Foxconn signed a contract with President Trump to construct a $20-million dollar LCD complex and bring 13,000 jobs to Wisconsin. However, the glory of jobs promised was far from delivered: Foxconn employed fewer than 300 eligible individuals under contract, the constructed facilities were barren and employees were expected to bring their own office supplies with very little accommodation, the dynamic facility workers looked forward to remained mostly vacant. Not only are Foxconn’s environmental missions a bit murky, which warrants deeper critique given the breadth of products they produce, these incidents also perhaps call into question the conditions they subject their employees too.
In terms of Amazon, they have made many sustainability pledges such as committing to more environmentally-friendly operations by reducing carbon emissions; creating more circular economies by bolstering the life-cycle of products through offering repair services and selling gently used products (Amazon Renewed); finding ways to generate less waste through revising their packaging methods. Amazon seems to have completed a fairly thorough analysis and has strived to implement company-wide changes that not only make company practices more sustainable, but also enable consumers to buy more sustainably; for this reason, the “who makes it category” wins a few extra points in my book. However, Amazon’s decision to manufacture via Foxconn and uncertainty regarding how thoroughly and how seriously Amazon is committing itself to sustainability are facts to bear in mind.