Mobile phone- love it hate, but don’t bin it

Filed in Blog by on August 1, 2008 11 Comments
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Old mobile phones can be reused!

My mobile phone; I love it, I hate it. I need it, I resist it. But one day, for certain I will have to bin it.

That’s what modern technology and marketing feed us. A sure recipe for built in obsolescence and a desire for something newer, better and smarter.

I was searching around for something yesterday and suddenly came across a draw with a stash of old mobile phones.

Ahhh, yes, I remember that one, it had a really neat feature, but look how big it is now, couldn’t possibly use it, even if it worked.

And that’s another point; many old mobile phones that have not been used for a while will not work, in fact they get unregistered from the network and it’s quite a task to get them re-registered. Our current phone on a pay-as-you-go needs to be used at least once every 6 months to stay registered. (O2 network)

So what do you do with your trusty mobile when it finally gets the heave-ho for a younger brighter model? Maybe you just battle on with it, complete with dodgy connection and broken aerial, hoping it won’t finally die at that crucial moment when you’re stranded with the kids and a puncture.

Mobile phones are sure to have a limited life cycle and they are becoming increasingly more difficult to repair. They just don’t want you to get it fixed when there’s a new model to tempt you.

The average mobile phone user in the UK, will replace their handset once every 18 months. 96% of all 15 – 24 year olds in UK own a mobile phone and the market is driven to make them keep updating their phones to the latest one.

Across the world, 1.3 billion people own a mobile phone. Many of these end up in the landfill, which is such a waste, because we all know that one man’s trash can become another man’s treasure! It is estimated that less than 4% of all unused mobile phones in the UK are currently recycled and that millions of phones are hiding in drawers and cupboards across the UK. This is such a waste because inside these technological goodies is a goldmine (literally) of usable parts.

Ok, enough whining,
what are going to do as a true environmentalist, with a clear conscience and a hard decision to make?

Throwing an old mobile phone into the landfill can mean that toxic components can leach out and contaminate the water or air. Incinerating a mobile phone can emit highly toxic dioxins. Big No-No’s…

recycle mobilesThere are some valuable things you can do to keep your mobile phone out of the landfill and remain useful to someone.

  • Rather than stash that old dinosaur in the draw, dig it out and donate it to a good cause. Even if it ends up being salvaged, it still has some valuable recycling materials
  • Mobile phones use a significant quantity of gold in certain electronic components like contacts. According to other materials can be recycled as follows:
  • Handsets are sent to a specialist recycling agent in Sweden where metals are extracted using waste-to-energy incineration.
  • Batteries are sent to a specialist recycler in France. Nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride and lithium ion/polymer are extracted and returned to productive use.
  • Chargers and accessories – the metals are recovered, and the plastic is melted into traffic cones, buckets and horse gallops.
  • Mixed plastics, like phone covers, are melted and formed to make plastic sheeting.

Another option is;

Most charities will accept your old mobile phone. One of the largest charities, Oxfam has created an online mobile retail partner. Every time a customer buys online from, they’ll receive a Freepost bag to donate their unwanted handset to Oxfam.

Oxfam’s “Bring Bring” handset recycling scheme offers an ideal way for consumers, mobile phone resellers and Oxfam to collaborate in achieving a win for all and importantly making a contribution to a good cause. It is the simplicity of the scheme which makes it so attractive.

If you want to keep your thoughts with the environment, then Recycling appeal collects mobile phones for reuse and recycling, raising funds and helping the environment.

The Recycling Appeal has generated over £3.2 million for partner organisations since 1999.

If your handset no longer works, then valuable parts can still be salvaged and reused. Check out Green Source for further information.

There is likely to be somebody who can make use of your old phone. Either offer it on your local Freecycle or sell it. You can sell on eBay or try a company like Mobile phone exchange You can get an instant valuation online and if you think it’s worth it, you sell it to mobile phone exchange.

Computers for charities run a collection service for old mobile phones that are salvaged and help to raise money for children in need.

Final thoughts …
Every time I have bought a mobile phone in the past, I always thought it was the coolest thing I owned. Why is it that a year later it becomes an unwanted embarrassment?

Judging by the amount of phones discarded every year this is fairly typical. Have we become so driven and gullible to the marketeers of our society that we can’t think for ourselves? Is that why we get married and divorced so easily as well? Seriously, isn’t it really the same message, that if it goes wrong or you find a better model, you just chuck it and trade up

Maybe the mobile phone market is a clear symptom of our personal and cultural restlessness and hankering after the unreachable dream of bigger, better faster brighter, smarter. If that is the case, the call to stop and review our thinking here, as a model for our life, could just be the best thing we could do for ourselves, as well as the environment.

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  1. We’ve only ever bought two cell phones, and we still have them. They’re very basic(they don’t even fold! lol), and we had a pre-paid plan with them(we don’t use them very often). I don’t really see us getting new ones until these ones die, and I don’t know how long that will be. We’ve had the one for probably 5 years now and it’s still going strong.

  2. never had a cell phone, live well without it, land line necessary for DSL internet plan in our rural US. Midwest area.

    i have witnessed tragic waste of technology all around, mounds of e-waste fostered by the Throw Aways and their rich cousins, the Casual Discarders.

    they were raised by television robots and plastic cards that give you money for little effort. and they want it all now, i mean Now! so the big footprint will take some time to shrink to healthy size in the mobile/cell phone convenience.

  3. Mr. Green says:

    Hats off to you ladies! I would add, that our sorry collection is from the bad-ol-days of unconscious living. Our current mobile phone was cut off, simply because we failed to use it enough. It was quite a hastle to re-register it, but we felt it was important to do this, rather than buy a new one. I guess many people would simply not bother and get another one. That’s what they want us to do, right?

  4. Louise says:

    I’ve had a couple of new mobiles – usually because I’d lost the old one (well, I knew where the one was – in a Portugese shopping centre which opened at 9am – unfortunately our flight left at 8am!). I’ve never had a new one ‘just for the sake of it’, although I once bought a pretty purple one second hand from ebay (now recycled as spare mobile for DD to take out when with friends – not to be used other than for that!). My work mobile (in days of yore) was regularly updated, as is DHs – these always go to our primary school, as they get cash for recycling (in fact I used to take other unwanted mobiles from work there too, as they were not wanted back by anyone)

  5. Mr Green says:

    Good one Louise… If you can make the most of recycling old mobiles, this is a great idea. I keep hearing about parents doing this and it really is so easy to do these days. I can’t imagine whey the national average of mobile phone recycling is so low. I’m beginning to wander if it’s the younger generation that are dumping their phones. (11-18) Anyone got some comment on that one, or a pointer to where the demographic wasters are?? I would like to see better incentives for trade-ins, so that it actually ‘pays’ to take your phone back when you buy a new one. I know these exist, as I pointed to in the article, so why don’t more people do it?

  6. Kris says:

    I’m on my second mobile phone – the first one was a hand-me-down from my Dad and used until the battery became unreliable. I must now check out the useful links you’ve posted and take some action on sending it out to be stripped down as usefully as it can be. The decision to choose another took me months and I ended up with one which pleases my girly side (pretty!) and my practical side (good menus, decently spaced keys)and I forsee continuing with it for some time.

    But just to show how out of step I am with everyone else, I went through the link on one of those frequent emails for phone-trade-in companies and found that my phone is already so obsolete that it’s valueless and they made out they’d be doing me a favour by recycling it at no cost if I did want rid of it! It’s only a year and a bit old…

  7. Mrs Green says:

    You’ve bought up a really important point here Kris – that making a good and informed choice in the first place leads to less waste. Spontaneous purchases are a big no-no.

    You’ve chosen something that appeals to your girly side AND is functional, and now you’re happy with it and are going to hang onto it.

    Built in obsolescence is one of my personal bug bears, but I won’t go there now ;D

  8. calvin says:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Our company name, Speed Trading Company Ltd. works in mobile phone parts trades in China. We have several outlet shops in main area of mobile phone trade center. My name is Anson Chan. Glad to have chance to talk to you.
    We are looking for suppliers all over the world who are able to supply us mobile phone LCD, Camera, Flex Cable, Mother Board and other parts. We are buying also from UK at the moment for all brand include Nokia, SE, Motorolla, Samsung, and LG. We also love to buy other parts of like HTC and Blackberry too.
    We purchase in weekly basis, and we would like to go to your place if necessary in case you have stocks for sell. We do not need all brand new parts. Brand new is good, however, broken parts also welcomed. we have buyers looking for that.
    We buy either price for a whole lot, or every listed items just depends your strategy planning for the selling items. and we will offer to you at highest.

    I hope that there is a chance for us to cooperate in coming future! And I believe that it would be profitable to both of us!

    Thanks and regards,

    Calvin Chan
    Speed Trading Co. Ltd.
    MSN:[email protected]
    e-mail:[email protected]
    Tel: +85269312952

  9. Mrs Green, I think you’ve been Spammed!!!

  10. Poppy says:

    I think you’re right Maisie!

  11. Mrs Green says:

    Indeed we have ladies. Well I guess Calvin and Anson could come and collect from us, but that would be one hell of a trip LOL!

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