Mountain of discarded mobiles grows at 'frightening' rate

Snazzy new mobile phones like the iPhone and other must-have electronic gadgets, such as the latest laptops and iPod models, will fill many stockings this Christmas. But disposing of the older devices will not be at the forefront of most people's minds.

Around 11,000 tons of unused phones already sit dormant in drawers across the UK, and that figure is likely to rise this Christmas as people upgrade to better devices. Factoring in old laptops, games consoles and portable music players, the environmental implications of celebrating Christmas with a new digital toy start to look ominous, as most of the older electronic products will end up in landfill sites, leaking dangerous chemicals into the earth.

While reusing the devices either by passing them on to friends or selling it is the best solution, recycling the gadget is the next best thing. Companies such as the Body Shop and mobile phone operators such as Orange have been offering to recycle handsets for years, but UK consumers are still much more likely to bin their old phone as soon as they have transferred their numbers.

Johan Thomsen, a manager at Green Mobile, argued: "The problem today is that people upgrade their mobile phones every year and only a small percentage of these phones are disposed of safely." The situation is "frightening", he said.

Green Mobile, a small operator that passes on a portion of its profits to environmental charities such as the Woodland Trust and Friends of the Earth, does not woo users with a free, leading edge handset, as is commonplace in the UK. Instead, it asks people to hold on to their existing phones for as long as possible and passes on the savings of not having to subsidise a new handset to the user through lower call charges.

Mr Thomsen said that a handset is designed to last five years, yet 100 million people in Europe upgrade to a new phone every year. The company also offers environmentally friendly wind-up phone chargers for customers who want to reduce their phone's environmental impact further.

For those mobile phones, laptops and iPods that have seen better days, recycling is the best way to reduce the environmental impact of the product. EU legislation requires that hardware companies that produce electronic products are also responsible for disposing of the device, and a number of companies, including Fonebak, ReCellular and Eazyfone, have built businesses based on recycling phones on behalf of manufacturers. Meanwhile, device makers are designing phones that are easily recyclable and contain less hazardous chemicals.

ABI Research expects that shipments of recycled phones will exceed 100 million units in 2012, driven by shorter handset replacement cycles, growing demand for low-cost mobile phones in emerging markets, regulation and growing consumer demand. By 2012, ABI expects the market for recycled handsets to be worth $3bn (1.5bn), but the analyst Shailendra Pandey said the key challenge is to revamp the old mobile phones at the lowest possible cost, to ensure a decent margin on the resale.

However with 1 billion handsets sold around the world every year, and Nokia alone shipping 1 million mobile phones a day, consumers need to take some responsibility for the safe disposal of their old devices, starting this Christmas.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

    £45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

    Ashdown Group: Junior SQL DBA - London - £39,000

    £37000 - £39000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: SQL Database Administrato...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

    £26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Expanding creative studio requi...

    Day In a Page

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin