Smartphones - we can’t live without them in today’s world, yet today’s world can’t continue to live as it should due to the damage phones do in the way we make them, buy them and dispose of them.
Rebox, reuse, repair, rehome and recycle all are really good ways of reducing waste, restricting environmental harm and retaining scarce resources.
Stay in the loop - mobile phones and the circular economy
The concept of a circular economy turns the lifecycle of a mobile phone - or any other item for that matter - into a closed loop in which we recycle and reuse its components in a sustainable way.
That means designing out waste, minimising pollution, keeping products and materials in use, preventing harmful compounds from entering the environment and repurposing goods for a new use or using their parts to make new things.
What has tended to happen with mobile phones is that we simply ‘stash and trash them’. When we get a new smartphone, we pop the old one in a drawer for a while, thinking it might come in useful one day, before eventually sliding them in the bin along with everything else that ends up in landfill sites.
Small devices, big impact - the environmental harm of smartphones
Though they are relatively small in size, mobile devices have a double whammy effect when we throw them away. Old smartphones that aren’t repurposed contribute to both plastic and electronic waste. That ends up in landfills, or worse, irresponsible disposal pollutes the soil, air and oceans.
Mobile phones contain a high number of precious metals that have a value long after the device itself has reached the end of its life. In your typical smartphone, there is copper, gold, silver, platinum and tungsten. The trouble is, if those materials are not salvaged and recycled properly, poisonous chemicals can leach into the ground, watercourses and the sea.
Research also suggests that smartphones have the biggest carbon footprint in the tech industry. While they may consume little energy to operate, 85% of their emissions come from the production process. This is due to mining and refining the raw materials that go into every phone and the assembly and transportation of new devices.
How to contribute to the mobile phone circular economy
Until recently, mobile phones have always kind of encouraged the opposite of sustainability. With typical contract lengths of two years after which we all tend to seek a new upgraded model in our quest to have the latest smartphone, we’re never that far away from chucking one out.
There are better ways. And we can all adopt the principles of a circular economy to prevent the ageing smartphone in our pocket from becoming a polluting problem for current and future generations.
- Refresh it - a mobile phone can actually last for several years beyond what you might think its standard lifespan is. Adding a new battery and updating the operating system can extend the useful life of a smartphone. If it’s really old, you could even claim it as a ‘retro’ style icon (Anyone for Snakes on a Nokia 3310?).
- Repair it - research has shown that simply repairing a smartphone that has gone on the blink can extend its life by up to four years. Screens can be replaced and cases repaired relatively cost-effectively.
- Rehome it - gifting a device to a friend or family member breathes a new useful life into an old phone, especially if they’re not too bothered about having the latest model.
- Repurpose it - the camera might not be as powerful as you now wish, its battery life may be fading, or it might not have enough storage space for your ever-growing photo albums, but you can reuse an old phone in a new way. It might just be for the kids to play games on or you could even maintain a sim card in it and have a 'second line' for business purposes.
- Sell it - the circular economy for mobile phones actually started from the bottom up. For ages now, people have sold their old ones to friends or online via eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
- Recycle your old mobile and get cash for it - a bit of a no-brainer for many, you can both sell your former phone to raise cash and have it recycled at the same time.
Pop it in the box and get cash popped into your bank
For most of us, an old mobile actually has very little future use. If you do sell it via an online trading platform, you still have no idea what will happen to it eventually.
At Reboxed, we believe it’s better to sell your phone for cash and be assured that it will be recycled at the same time.
Apple iPhones are the world’s most popular model. Did you know that Apple flagship phones are also the ones that retain the highest value for selling on? Multiple studies suggest that if you sell your iPhone, it will attract a higher price than Android models.
When you sell and recycle a phone, it can be refurbished and find a new home. Alternatively, all of the valuable materials are extracted. The metals are used to make new goods and the plastic is melted down to make new plastic things.
Thinking of a phone upgrade? Time for a new model? Think circular - make some cash and do the right thing for the environment by finding out how much you could receive straight into your bank account in just a few days. That will part-fund the cost of a new phone! Then in two, three or five years time, when it's time for an upgrade, you can do the same again.