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There are 5 billion unused cell phones around the world. Now, the industry wants to recover them


12 operators from around the world and the GSMA have signed an agreement that seeks to reuse those millions of mobile phones that are “inactive” to give them a second life and reduce their carbon footprint.

There are 5 billion unused cell phones around the world.  Now, the industry wants to recover them
Currently there are billions of smartphones stored in drawers that have not been used for a long time and that are generating unnecessary waste.

Over the last few years, a general dynamic of “use and throw away” has been imposed among the users of the mobile terminalssince, normally, when we buy a new mobile, we keep the old one in the drawer to have a spare device in case of failure of the main one. This has caused there to be 5 billion unused smartphones worldwide that are neither recycled nor reused.

It seems that, finally, the mobile industry has decided to stop ignoring this problem and has proposed recover those billions of “inactive” mobiles to create a “more circular” economy and reduce the impact of electronic waste on the planet.

The world’s leading mobile operators and the GSMA want to reuse or recycle unused mobiles

The GSMA, an organization representing the mobile industry worldwide, has shared a post on their website in which it announces that it has partnered with 12 of the most important telephone operators worldwide to recycle or reuse the 5,000 million terminals that are currently unused or that have been stored in drawers for years.

these twelve carriers son BT Group, Globe Telecom, GO Malta, Iliad, KDDI, NOS, Orange, Proximus, Safaricom, Singtel, Tele2 and Telefonica and all of them have committed to do the following:

  • Increase the recovery of “inactive” mobile phonesFirstly, these twelve operators have promised that by 2030 the number of used mobile devices collected through their take-back programs will be at least 20% of all new mobiles sold directly to its customers.
  • Boost mobile recovery and prevent devices from going to landfills or incineration: Likewise, these twelve operators have also committed that, in 2030, 100% of the used terminals collected through their recovery plans will be repaired, reused or transferred to controlled recycling organizations.

Obviously, the main objective of this agreement is to reduce the “e-waste” that is generated every year around the worldas a refurbished phone may have 87% less climate impact than a new device. Thus, through this initiative, the GSMA and mobile operators want to extend the useful life of smartphones and recycle the materials of those that are no longer valid for be used in the manufacture of new terminals.

The GSMA estimates that the 5,000 million mobile phones that are currently unused could allow us to recover $8 billion worth of gold, palladium, silver, copper and other critical minerals and would make it possible to manufacture enough cobalt to power 10 million electric car batteries.

Orange and Tele2 are the two mobile operators most involved in this projectas they have confirmed through separate communications. So, first of all, Philippe Lucas, EVP of Devices and Partnerships at Orange stated the following:

“This initiative underlines the important momentum that is taking place in the operator community to drive decarbonisation and the circular economy and we are proud to be part of it. Only by working collectively can we succeed, which is why Orange is playing a fundamental role in the longevity of devices in the smartphone ecosystem, working with hardware and operating system providers alike. Initiatives like these underscore our unwavering commitment to a sustainable future and will support Orange’s mission to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.” .

For his part, Erik Wottrich, Director of Sustainability at Tele2 He had this to say about his participation in this show:

“The increasing amount of e-waste, including mobile phones, that is generated each year is not only an environmental challenge for our industry, but also a huge loss of potential financial value. Promoting a more circular flow of resources is a key priority for Tele2, and I am grateful that we can contribute to that priority by leading this GSMA project together with Orange.As the environmental and commercial benefits of implementing a circular business model are clear, I hope that many more operators around the world will join us in the ambition of zero waste and a higher return rate by 2030”.

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