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What happens to old mobile phones?

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Love ‘Em and Leave 'Em


What Happens To Old Mobile Phones Once You Upgrade?


The iPhone 5 is a hot commodity, but what happens to all the perfectly good mobile phones it’s replacing when people pick up the latest model? Cell phones are being discarded at a faster rate as device life spans shorten. This type of constant tech consumption is contributing to the world’s e-waste problem. Here’s a closer look at the epidemic.


Tons of New Electronics Are Created Each Year

Demand is high for our favorite tech gadgets. Each year millions of new devices are manufactured and distributed, made with faster hardware and new features that eclipse previous models.

In 2011 alone, global consumers purchased:
352.8 million computers
72.7 million tablets
248 million TVs


Mobile Phones Represent A Huge Share Of New Electronics 

Mobile phones are reaching into all corners of the globe. More than 1 billion new mobiles were purchased in the last year.

In 2011 alone, global consumers purchased:
1.59 billion total mobile phones
491.4 million smartphones


Phone Replacement Varies Dramatically

Mobile phones are constantly replaced and discarded—high turnover for a technology that’s become so pervasive around the world.

Average Replacement Cycle of Handset Mobile Phones, By Country (2010)

United States        21.7 months
United Kingdom     22.4 months
France                  30.8 months
Canada                 33.0 months
South Africa          38.2 months
Mexico                  39.6 months
Germany               45.7 months
Japan                    46.3 months
Italy                      51.5 months
Finland                  74.5 months
Israel                    76.5 months
Brazil                    80.8 months
India                     93.6 months

What Happens To All Of Our Mobile Phones?

A global study by Nokia suggests that consumers may be repurposing their phones in multiple ways. However, only 9% of global respondents had recycled their last phone.

What People In Developed Countries Have Done With A Previous Mobile Phone 

40% Kept as spare
18% Gave to friend or family member
9% Sold or traded for a new phone
7% Phone was lost, stolen, or broken
12% Recycled the phone*
14% Other
*Among developing nations, only 5% of respondents had recycled their phone.

>> In 2011, approximately £2.7 billion worth of unused mobile phones in Great Britain was lying around people’s homes.


What Should You Do With Old Mobiles? 

When we upgrade to the latest and greatest model or replace an aging mobile phone, several things that can happen. 


X — Dispose
Mobile phones contain metals, plastics, chemicals, and other potentially toxic materials. Phones disposed of in the trash end up in landfills and contribute to the problem of e-waste worldwide. 


✔— Reuse
A host of organisations—including various agencies, nonprofits, and phone manufacturers—take in working (and sometimes non-working) mobile phones to refurbish and redistribute. Search online for drop-off locations near you.


✔— Recycle
Mobile phone recycling is more popular than ever. Recyclers, stores and manufacturers accept phones (or even buy them off you) for recycling. They can then break them down into basic materials to reuse in other electronics. Search online for drop-off locations near you.


Recycling just 1 million mobile phones can yield…
50 lbs. of gold
550 lbs. of silver
20 lbs. of palladium
20,000 lbs. of copper

Next time you upgrade your mobile phone, consider donating your old one to do your part to combat e-waste. 


SOURCES: DISPLAYSEARCH, EVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, GARTNER, IDC, ELECTRONICS TAKE BACK, MOBILEFUTURE.ORG, NOKIA, RECON ANALYTICS, TELEGRAPH
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http://www.electronicstakeback.com/wp-content/uploads/Facts_and_Figures_on_EWaste_and_Recycling.pdf - PURCHASED ELECTRONICS IN 2011
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/mobile-phones/8551117/Unused-mobile-phones-worth-2.7-billion-lying-around-in-British-homes.html - reuse statistics
http://torsionmobile.com/2012/04/05/the-problem-of-unused-cell-phones/ 10% recycle rate
http://www.mobilefuture.org/page/handset-replacement-cycle.pdf - turnover by country
 http://www.intechopen.com/books/post-consumer-waste-recycling-and-optimal-production/electronics-waste-recycling-of-mobile-phones - SURVEY DATA - WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR OLD PHONES?
http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/pdfs/life-cell.pdf  - WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Old tech: what happens to old phones, computers etc. Famous old tech and what it's inspired
http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2009/03/09/what-happens-when-old-computers-die 
http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/crazy-e-waste-statistics-explored-in-infographic.html 
http://www.forbes.com/sites/philfava/2011/12/20/new-study-on-e-waste-in-the-united-states/
http://www.electronicstakeback.com/wp-content/uploads/Facts_and_Figures_on_EWaste_and_Recycling.pdf


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