Electronics Waste: Recycling of Mobile Phones
Electronics Waste: Recycling of Mobile Phones
Pia Tanskanen
Nokia Corporation
1. Introduction
As the consumption of electronics products has increased the management of new type of
waste, electronics waste (e-waste, WEEE), has become a global concern. Countries in the
European Union are creating 17kg e-waste per capita annually and developing markets such
as China and India are currently creating 1kg e-waste per capita a year. The amounts are
expected to be rising in the future, and the joint disposal of e-waste together with municipal
waste cannot continue (Chancerel &Rotter, 2009). E-waste contains many recyclable
materials such as ferrous metals and aluminum, copper and precious metals as well as
different engineering plastics. These are typically highly integrated into each other. This
means that recycling of electronics products is technologically more complicated than for
example glass or paper recycling. Most importantly disposal of e-waste causes loss of these
valuable, non-renewable resources as electronics products contain wide range of valuable
materials, many of them becoming scarce in the nature. Depletion of raw material sources
together with increasing need for materials in manufacturing of new products together
mean that collection and recycling of obsolete products becomes more and more important.
Electronics waste recycling processes may also pose a risk to environment if electronic
products are not treated in a proper manner at their end of life stage. Substances of concern
may leak to the environment or cause health and safety risk at the treatment phase.
Examples of improper treatment of e-waste are widely presented in the literature. The trend
has been in the electronics industry to remove the potentially hazardous materials from the
products so that there is smaller risk of contamination even if the improper recycling
practices take place.
Product end of life process or value chain can be divided into different sub-processes that all
aim at recovery of the material and energy content of obsolete products. Optimization of the
whole value chain is important in order to get the best value for economy and for
environment. This means that a system perspective needs to be taken into account when
working to improve the parts of the recycling process as all phases have an impact on the
others. For example waste collection logistics should not discredit the environmental or
business benefits of recycling. To increase the e-waste recycling it must be noted that not all
the recycling challenges are technical. The biggest obstacle in recycling is the lack of
consumer awareness on collection and recycling possibilities, leading to low collection
amounts. Without returning products for recycling the next phases, technical recycling
processes, cannot take place. Leakage outside of the value chain of the products during the
end of life process may lead to improper recycling practices. The cooperation and
Related links:

Recycle Your Cell Phone
The First Mobile Phone with a Built-In Camera
Mobile telephone history
Your child’s first smartphone
What to do with your old phones across Europe
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