Mobile Phone Recycling is on the Increase

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More and more people are choosing to recycle their old mobile phone when they replace it with a brand new one, marking an encouraging growth in environmentally conscious consumer attitudes.

Figures from industry research firm TechNavio predict that the burgeoning phone recycling industry will see over 19% growth by 2015, implying that smartphone users are taking more and more responsibility for the waste problems caused by outdated consumer electronics.

However, a poll we have been running on the Dialaphone blog for the past week tells a different story, with only a small percentage of respondents revealing that they recycled their last phone after getting a new one.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Britain is one of the world leaders when it comes to recycling electronical equipment and within Europe, this country’s performance is only equalled by Germany.

However, UNEP estimates that 80% of electronic waste is still going into landfill sites and while there is debate as to exactly how much of this waste consists of old mobile phones, figures tend to suggest that the US alone throws away around 140 million handsets each year.

While our poll found that only a small number of our readers are recycling their old phones, it was evidenced that an even smaller number will just throw an old handset in the bin (3% of respondants).

Two options emerged as being far more common; either giving the old handset to someone else, or simply keeping it stored away.

The image of a bottom drawer full of old phones, chargers, tape and other detritus that you can’t quite bring yourself to throw away will be familiar to many. So familiar, it seems, that many are still filling it up with out of date handsets. And full touchscreen smartphones may well be joining old QWERTY keypad devices in there too.

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As for the other example, passing on an old mobile to someone else has long been a common practice and is seemingly one that continues. There are apocryphal tales that suggest this was how BlackBerry gained prominence amongst the two wildly different demographics its older devices were associated with; business users and teenagers.

According to legend, when a generation of businessmen were given new company phones they passed the old devices onto their teenage children, who then found BlackBerry’s free messaging service very attractive indeed.

Statistics from suggest that the handset that was most recycled during 2012 was the 16GB version of the iPhone 3GS, with other iterations of Apple’s smartphone range occupying a further four spots in the top ten handsets sold to the site. Three BlackBerry devices feature on the list, with Samsung and HTC making up the rest of the placings.

As more recent handsets come to the end of the initial two year contracts under which many of them will have been purchased, we could see devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Sensation creeping up the lists. People who bought such smartphones when they were flagship devices could well be planning on moving on to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One at the earliest opportunity. Hopefully more and more of these older handsets will be recycled.

As an aside, towards the end of 2012 HTC announced that it had plans to sell its upcoming devices without a charger in an effort to combat electronic waste. UK network O2 has estimated that up to 70% of people who buy a new mobile already have a charger, and since many devices use mini-USB connections, they are largely interchangeable.

It seems that the idea of recycling an old handset rather than simply binning it is an idea that has achieved mainstream recognition, no doubt helped by the number of websites which will purchase phones for this purpose. However, simply passing on an old handset to someone else has the same effect, saving another unused device from ending up in a landfill site along with millions of others.

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