A cheaper phone to help save the planet?

Wondering why the experts are complaining that to much is going to waste? A recent article in the UK daily newspaper The Independent suggested that there are already 11,000 tons of unused cellular phones in the UK that have not yet been disposed of

Most of these phones will eventually be discarded,due to the rise of cheap mobiles, along with old laptops, portable music players and video game consoles. These electronic products are all made with highly toxic metals and other chemicals that invariably leach into the earth when discarded. In fact, thousands of tons of electronic waste already do reach landfills each year as users upgrade to new mobile phones and discard the old ones.

At the same time, says the newspaper, an estimated one billion mobile phones are sold worldwide each year, with a staggering one million of them each day being Nokia handsets. Of course, most cellular phone service providers promise a free new handset for anyone who signs up and, while many companies offer to recycle used mobile phones, the vast majority of such phones are still thrown away with the general rubbish. Upgrade annually – perhaps every 18 months depending on the contract – and that is a lot of handsets thrown into black bin liners with the potato peelings.

Some 100 million people upgrade to new phones each year in Europe alone, even though the average handset has a life of five years. But would you want to hang on to your 1 megapixel dinosaur when the average camera phone is fast approaching five megapixels?

To encourage phone reuse, at least one provider, Green Mobile, asks new customers to keep using their old handset and rewards them with a lower rate offered by companies who subsidise new phones each year. Green Mobile, in partnership with the Woodland Trust and Friends of the Earth, has created the UK’s first environmentally friendly mobile phone service.

E-waste is entering public consciousness one way or another. The so-called WEEE Directive, for example, is EU-imposed regulations on manufacturers and distributors to dispose of electrical and electronic goods in a prescribed fashion (at designated disposal sites) or face fines. Maybe, as food and fuel prices soar, the prevalence of recycled phones is will grow and become as much a fashion statement as the latest Armani- or Lg Prada handset.

Researcher ABI estimates that these factors, in addition to shorter handset replacement cycles and a growing demand for cheaper phones will cause the global recycled handset market to be worth $3 billion by 2012, with recycled phone shipments numbering above 100 million.

Just as many people’s transport habits began to change dramatically with the rise in fuel prices at the pumps this summer, maybe it’s time for a back to basics approach to mobiles: a mobile phone as an instrument for making and receiving calls and texts, with a bit of snapshot-taking and Web browsing thrown in if you really need it.

1 Million Nokia handsets sold each day !

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