Mobile phones should be recycled at the end of their life but one key question is who will decide when that device goes end of life? The timeframe depends on who you ask. Mobile phones use to have more than a 3-year product life cycle and, in some instances, even more than that just like many other electronic goods. The product life cycle of mobile phones has been shortening with many replacing their devices every 16 months.
Mobile phones soon reach the end of their life, and usually because of the advancements in technology and newer models being launched several times a year by leading mobile phone manufacturers. However, after 16 months the mobile phone is not completely useless, it can be used in many scenarios despite several newer models being launched. Users dismiss or discard millions of mobile phones every year in favour of new technology and most of those mobile phones do not reach recycling facilities. There are three main reasons why users hesitate to sell old mobile phones.
- Users underestimate the value of their old mobile phone especially if they are broken and do not want to go to the hassle of selling their old broken mobile phone.
- Users are always scared of losing their data from an old mobile phone despite being reset back to the factory settings.
- Users are unaware of the fact that these devices lose their value at a massive pace and soon become undesirable.
We have shortlisted a few top facts about mobile phone recycling.
- More than 70% of the toxic waste in landfills in the USA came from electronic waste.
- Just 12 million mobile phones were recycled appropriately out of 141 million discarded mobile phones in the USA in 2019. Although the figures have changed massively the ratio between the mobile phones sent for recycling and those which weren’t recycled appropriate stays the same.
- The mobile phone life cycle was almost 30 months in the 2000s, in 2015 it was almost 24 months and now it has reached less than 18 months on average.
- Copper, gold, lead, zinc, beryllium, tantalum, coltan along with other rare earth minerals are used in every circuit board of a mobile phone.
- Over 2 Billion mobile phones bought in just 2017 and out of them there were more than 231 million iPhones.
- More than 257.9 million Tablets and E-readers were sold in 2016.
- Experts believe that by recycling 1 Million mobile phones 24kg of gold, 250kg of silver, 9 kg of palladium and more than 9000 kg of copper can be recovered.
- Recycling metals from mobile phones and other electronic gadgets just requires 10% of electricity to mine new materials.
- There are almost 6000 mobile phones in 1 ton of mobile phones.
- More than 169 Terawatts were used in 2013 by the gadgets we use at home.
- According to Apple, it has sold over 2.2 Billion iPhones until November 1, 2018. This figure has changed as more than 300 million are sold since November 2018.
- Apple has more than 900 million mobile phones in the wild out of a total of 1.4 billion devices worldwide, which are not being used as mobile phones and have not reached the recycling facilities.
The speed by which new mobile phones are hitting the market is related to the demand for these mobile phones. The demand is derived by two main factors, the first being the technological changes which are occurring at a rapid pace and the second biggest driver of demand is related to the number of broken devices which are either too expensive to repair or are beyond economical repair. Manufacturers have to play a very important role in manufacturing devices which are cheap to get repaired so that the demand for new mobile phones can be controlled as it has a direct impact on the environment.
Mobile phones should be recycled well before they become useless pieces of gadgets. Mobile phones drop at least 3% of their value every month from new due to rapid advancements in technology. For instance, the price of iPhone 8 in 2018 was over £400 but now when you sell iPhone 8, you will be quoted almost £200 depending on where you sell it and the condition of your mobile phone.