Mobile recycling report

According to the GSM Association, recycling for mobile devices is increasing. Currently, recognised take-back or recycling schemes operate in more than 85 countries, the GSMA stated. The handsets recycled in this way extend their shelf life indefinitely, with devices being passed on to a second or even third user.

More than 20 million phones are collected each year for reuse or recycling; those that cannot be repaired compose less than 0.003% of the total annual weight of the waste electronic equipment.

The average useful design life of a mobile handset is around seven years, yet users in developed countries typically replace their phones about every 18 months driven by both the evolution of technology and the tendency of consumers to want a device with more applications.

Altogether, 80% of a phone is recyclable or the energy can be recovered, said the GSMA; the remainder can be used in inert construction aggregates as, for instance, one tonne of recycled phones can produce up to 230 grams of gold.

As 20% of mobile subscribers live in the developing world, the informal repair sector is important. But research to date shows that there needs to be an increase in awareness, the GSMA claimed. More than 70% of collected handsets from developed markets can be refurbished.

The main destinations for refurbished devices are Latin America, Eastern Europe, China, India and Africa. It has been forecast that 100 million reused phones will ship in 2012, the GSMA said.