“More than a billion mobile phones are made every year but fewer than one percent are recycled” according to experts in Barcelona. In Europe alone, 160 million discarded phones results in a loss of about $500m every year, according to one report. If more people went green, billions could be saved.
The value of mobile phone materials is often underestimated and “Sometimes the size of a phone is deceiving for the perception of the impact it does to the environment,” says Sprint Nextel vice president of product, Fared Adib.
A standard mobile phone weighing less than 150g contains valuable materials such as gold, silver and rare minerals which are highly sought after elements, almost critical in high technology manufacturing.
Reusable components such as the camera, display, battery and charger can be stripped out, and used in the production of new devices. If this was done, it would mean the costs of re-manufacturing low-cost mobile phones could be slashed by 50%.
However, due to the low levels of recycling rates, a vast majority of this precious reusable and valuable material is lost, according to the research institute, Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Trend analysts comment that “very few people bring their mobile phones back, unless they are defective. We have tried to stimulate this, but rates of returns are very low,”
Though many mobile phones may indeed be at the end of their lifecycle and need to be scrapped completely and recycled, many others can be re-used and so there is a greater need to push for re-using.