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Mobile phone collection, reuse and recycling in the UK

Mobile phone collection, reuse and recycling in the UK
Mobile phone collection, reuse and recycling in the UK
Mobile phones are the most ubiquitous electronic product on the globe. They have relatively short lifecycles and because of their (perceived) in-built obsolescence, discarded mobile phones represent a significant and growing problem with respect to waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). An emerging and increasingly important issue for industry is the shortage of key metals, especially the types of metals found in mobile phones, and hence the primary aim of this timely study was to assess and evaluate the voluntary mobile phone takeback network in the UK. The study has characterised the information, product and incentives flows in the voluntary UK mobile phone takeback network and reviewed the merits and demerits of the incentives offered. A survey of the activities of the voluntary mobile phone takeback schemes was undertaken in 2008 to: identify and evaluate the takeback schemes operating in the UK; determine the target groups from whom handsets are collected; and assess the collection, promotion and advertising methods used by the schemes. In addition, the survey sought to identify and critically evaluate the incentives offered by the takeback schemes, evaluate their ease and convenience of use; and determine the types, qualities and quantities of mobile phones they collect. The study has established that the UK voluntary mobile phone takeback network can be characterised as three distinctive flows: information flow; product flow (handsets and related accessories); and incentives flow. Over 100 voluntary schemes offering online takeback of mobile phone handsets were identified. The schemes are operated by manufacturers, retailers, mobile phone network service operators, charities and by mobile phone reuse, recycling and refurbishing companies. The latter two scheme categories offer the highest level of convenience and ease of use to their customers. Approximately 83% of the schemes are either for-profit/commercial-oriented and/or operate to raise funds for charities. The voluntary schemes use various methods to collect mobile phones from consumers, including postal services, courier and in-store. The majority of schemes utilise and finance pre-paid postage to collect handsets. Incentives offered by the takeback schemes include monetary payments, donation to charity and entry into prize draws. Consumers from whom handsets and related equipment are collected include individuals, businesses, schools, colleges, universities, charities and clubs with some schemes specialising on collecting handsets from one target group. The majority (84.3%) of voluntary schemes did not provide information on their websites about the quantities of mobile phones they collect. The operations of UK takeback schemes are decentralised in nature. Comparisons are made between the UK’s decentralised collection system versus Australia’s centralised network for collection of mobile phones. The significant principal conclusions from the study are: there has been a significant rise in the number of takeback schemes operating in the UK since the initial scheme was launched in 1997; the majority of returned handsets seem to be of low quality; and there is very little available information on the quantities of mobile phones collected by the various schemes. Irrespective of their financial motives, UK takeback schemes increasingly play an important role in sustainable waste management by diverting EoL mobile phones from landfills and encouraging reuse and recycling. Recommendations for future actions to improve the management of end-of-life mobile phone handsets and related accessories are made.

0956-053X
1307-1315
Ongondo, F.O.
1571ba26-fed2-42d9-a392-ad8fde1e6bbf
Williams, I. D.
c9d674ac-ee69-4937-ab43-17e716266e22
Ongondo, F.O.
1571ba26-fed2-42d9-a392-ad8fde1e6bbf
Williams, I. D.
c9d674ac-ee69-4937-ab43-17e716266e22

Ongondo, F.O. and Williams, I. D. (2011) Mobile phone collection, reuse and recycling in the UK. Waste Management, 31 (6), 1307-1315. (doi:10.1016/j.wasman.2011.01.032). (PMID:21376556)

Record type: Article

Abstract

Mobile phones are the most ubiquitous electronic product on the globe. They have relatively short lifecycles and because of their (perceived) in-built obsolescence, discarded mobile phones represent a significant and growing problem with respect to waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). An emerging and increasingly important issue for industry is the shortage of key metals, especially the types of metals found in mobile phones, and hence the primary aim of this timely study was to assess and evaluate the voluntary mobile phone takeback network in the UK. The study has characterised the information, product and incentives flows in the voluntary UK mobile phone takeback network and reviewed the merits and demerits of the incentives offered. A survey of the activities of the voluntary mobile phone takeback schemes was undertaken in 2008 to: identify and evaluate the takeback schemes operating in the UK; determine the target groups from whom handsets are collected; and assess the collection, promotion and advertising methods used by the schemes. In addition, the survey sought to identify and critically evaluate the incentives offered by the takeback schemes, evaluate their ease and convenience of use; and determine the types, qualities and quantities of mobile phones they collect. The study has established that the UK voluntary mobile phone takeback network can be characterised as three distinctive flows: information flow; product flow (handsets and related accessories); and incentives flow. Over 100 voluntary schemes offering online takeback of mobile phone handsets were identified. The schemes are operated by manufacturers, retailers, mobile phone network service operators, charities and by mobile phone reuse, recycling and refurbishing companies. The latter two scheme categories offer the highest level of convenience and ease of use to their customers. Approximately 83% of the schemes are either for-profit/commercial-oriented and/or operate to raise funds for charities. The voluntary schemes use various methods to collect mobile phones from consumers, including postal services, courier and in-store. The majority of schemes utilise and finance pre-paid postage to collect handsets. Incentives offered by the takeback schemes include monetary payments, donation to charity and entry into prize draws. Consumers from whom handsets and related equipment are collected include individuals, businesses, schools, colleges, universities, charities and clubs with some schemes specialising on collecting handsets from one target group. The majority (84.3%) of voluntary schemes did not provide information on their websites about the quantities of mobile phones they collect. The operations of UK takeback schemes are decentralised in nature. Comparisons are made between the UK’s decentralised collection system versus Australia’s centralised network for collection of mobile phones. The significant principal conclusions from the study are: there has been a significant rise in the number of takeback schemes operating in the UK since the initial scheme was launched in 1997; the majority of returned handsets seem to be of low quality; and there is very little available information on the quantities of mobile phones collected by the various schemes. Irrespective of their financial motives, UK takeback schemes increasingly play an important role in sustainable waste management by diverting EoL mobile phones from landfills and encouraging reuse and recycling. Recommendations for future actions to improve the management of end-of-life mobile phone handsets and related accessories are made.

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More information

Published date: June 2011
Organisations: Centre for Environmental Science, Civil Maritime & Env. Eng & Sci Unit, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 186329
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/186329
ISSN: 0956-053X
PURE UUID: 199e4040-4b25-45ea-b221-636caac7290d
ORCID for I. D. Williams: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0121-1219

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 13 May 2011 08:57
Last modified: 19 Nov 2019 01:46

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