Nowadays there are digital gadgets that can cover almost every aspect of one’s daily activities. Charging them only once a day is often not enough. Thus, making portable chargers “Powerbanks” an essential item.

21st century signals a huge transformation in the field of technology. Many electronic devices have been invented that have facilitated our lives. Such a device is the Power bank. This gadget was invested early in the century, but its market grew exponentially during 2009-2012. The main reason was the coming of the smartphones. 

Since with the exponential growth of social media, people want to stay connected with their network all day and capture almost every moment of their everyday life, Power bank constitutes a solution to keep their mobile phones’ batteries full! Individuals are used to spending a lot of time using their smartphones when they are outside, either chatting or sharing photographs. Specifically, the social media platform “Instagram” is very popular among young people. Users want to share all their favourite moments during everyday life with their friends. For example, when they travel, they want to post a delicious-looking dish, a cozy café, beautiful streets and generally their unique experiences. But usually, the battery levels of a smartphone cannot allow someone to stay connected all day without charging his phone. Therefore, the Power bank is considered to be an essential gadget for travelers, especially the ones that go hiking or camping!

However, the constant use of the smartphone generates many problems, such as smartphone addiction. The fact that most individuals spend a great amount of time on their smartphone even when they are outside with their friends, is not a minor issue. According to studies, youngs’ smartphone addiction can be exhibited by various signs such as the inability to concentrate on important tasks because of being on the smartphone, anxiety and disorientation when they do not have their phones close to them and negative feelings when the phone battery is low (Li and Lin, 2019). In addition, many employees “to prevent the unpleasant feelings associated with flat battery levels, even carry power banks and phone chargers with them wherever they go” (Li and Lin, 2019, p. 4). This behaviour shows that there is a kind of interdependence between people and their smartphone. They feel calmer and more comfortable being on their smartphone and if for some reason they cannot have access to it, they start being anxious. This phenomenon can be described by the term “Nomophobia”, which means “the fear of being out of mobile phone contact” (Yildirim, 2014). The origin of the word is from the expression  “No Mobile Phobia”; the phobia of being without a mobile phone (King et al., 2014). Individuals feel this apprehension when their smartphone is out of charge or when they receive calls and notifications for a certain period of time (King et al., 2014). Finally, people fear the idea of seeing their smartphone batteries run out, so they always bring a power bank with them (Hasmawati et al., 2020). Therefore, a Power bank can be an object that from one hand keeps people entertained but on the other hand it contributes to their addiction and creates interdependence between individuals and smartphones.      

what happens to your old Power bank?

Modern consumerism encourages customers to buy electronic and electrical devices in ever-increasing amounts. Due to the mass consumption, the average lifespan of electronic and electrical products such as refrigerators, televisions, mobile phones, and power banks has been constantly declining (Zhang et al., 2012). Most people buy new mobile phones, laptops, and television sets not because the ones that they already have do not work properly, but because they consider them to be old-fashioned. But have you ever wondered what is happening then with the old devices?   

Nowadays, the negative effects of the mass consumption to our planet are more and more prominent. Management of e-waste constitutes a great challenge to human society (Song, Li, 2014) since e-waste recycling poses serious risks to environmental and human health. Electronic waste or e-waste is defined as the discarded electrical or electronic devices. There are many concerns about the amount of e-waste generated, but also about the e-waste associated toxicants. According to research, abundant toxicants, including heavy metals, polychlororinated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, could seep into the environment during e-waste disposal (Zhang et al., 2012). Primitive recycling operations can be responsible for the release of large amounts of toxins that can subject local workers to health hazards, via direct exposure ways like inhalation, dust ingestion, and dietary ingestion (Zhang et al., 2012). Heavy metals, penetrating the soils, where vegetables and crops are grown, contaminate irrigation water. Finally, “plants can take up these metals from soil by their roots, transport them upwards to their shoots, and finally accumulate them inside their tissues” (Li et al., 2011). 
So, think twice about how often you need to change your Power bank!

Computer equipment recycling centre. Pile of old computer components waiting to be recycled at a recycling centre. Photographed in Fourchambault, France.

Name: Power Bank

3D Model

Creator: Dora Boskou

Date: 20-01-2022

Place: Maastricht, The Netherlands

Themes: Technology & Society

Captured with HUAWEI P 10 lite, lightbox, lazy Susan

Processed with Agisoft Metashape Professional Software run on Windows 10 (64-bit)


Physical Object

Size: 14 x 7 x 1.5  cm  

Weight: 250 g

Material: Aluminium

lithium mining

Another environmental issue, associated with the Power bank, is related to the lithium. Lithium, which powers our power banks, is important to our battery-driven world. The demand for it has increased, as the global market’s annual consumption has risen by 8.9 percent annually (Ahmad, 2020). Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia—the so-called “Lithium Triangle”—hold around 75 percent of the world’s lithium. Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, located in Bolivia. Beneath this salt flat there are enormous lithium deposits, around 50 percent of the earth’s total.

Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat

Lithium extraction in Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile requires a considerable quantity of water. In Chile’s Salar de Atacama, lithium extraction has consumed 65 percent of the region’s water supply creating extreme water deficiencies, but also affecting the abilities of local farmers to grow crops and maintain livestock (Ahmad, 2020). Moreover, lithium mining is responsible for the harming of the soil, the air pollution, and the limited water supply. In Chile, residents have disapproved mining companies for polluting their waters while in Argentina, natives of the Salta and Catamarca provinces consider that the operations of lithium extraction have contaminated the streams that are used by humans and livestock. (Ahmad, 2020).

Lithium Extraction and Environmental Impact
via Youtube

In conclusion, Power bank is a symbolic object of the 21st century and brings to discussion many issues and challenges in this century. The environmental impact of e-waste and the mining of lithium as well as the restless desire of having the smartphones fully charged raise crucial concerns and deserve to be researched. Therefore, all these reasons make the object worthy enough to be included in the Virtual Time Capsule!


Ahmad, S. (2020). THE LITHIUM TRIANGLE: WHERE CHILE ARGENTINA, AND BOLIVIA MEET. Harvard International Review, 41(1), 51–53.

Hasmawati, F., Samiha, Y. T., Razzaq, A., & Anshari, M. (2020). Understanding nomophobia among digital natives: Characteristics and challenges. Journal of Critical Reviews7(13), 122-131.

King, A. L. S., Valença, A. M., Silva, A. C., Sancassiani, F., Machado, S., & Nardi, A. E. (2014). “Nomophobia”: Impact of cell phone use interfering with symptoms and emotions of individuals with panic disorder compared with a control group. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health: CP & EMH10, 28.

Li, J., Duan, H., & Shi, P. (2011). Heavy metal contamination of surface soil in electronic waste dismantling area: site investigation and source-apportionment analysis. Waste Management & Research29(7), 727-738.

Li, L., & Lin, T. T. (2019). Over-connected? A qualitative exploration of smartphone addiction among working adults in China. BMC psychiatry19(1), 1-10.

Song, Q., & Li, J. (2014). Environmental effects of heavy metals derived from the e-waste recycling activities in China: a systematic review. Waste management34(12), 2587-2594.

Yildirim, C. (2014). Exploring the dimensions of nomophobia: Developing and validating a questionnaire using mixed methods research (Doctoral dissertation, Iowa State University).

Zhang, K., Schnoor, J. L., & Zeng, E. Y. (2012). E-waste recycling: where does it go from here? Environmental Science & Technology46(20), 10861-10867.