Electronics Waste: Recycling of Mobile Phones
Electronics Waste: Recycling of Mobile Phone
consumers, 16 % from total, who only wanted to recycle without any incentive at all. This
supports other studies showing that financial incentives do not need to be in place for
recycling activities to start- convenience is the main driver. After the campaign the mail-
back system is still in use and one can download pre-paid envelope anytime at the Nokia.fi
internet page.
Recycling campaigns are activating people to recycle and the large amounts of envelopes
that have been distributed and downloaded are coming back to recycling. In the first
campaign all the envelopes were distributed directly to people by using different channels
from direct mail to magazine inserts, and 11 % of the envelopes were returned to recycling.
Previous experiences showed that 2 % of the envelopes put into the sales package were
returned back, so the result was really good. In the next campaigns people were directed to
pick-up an envelope themselves, or even go to the internet page to seek for more
information. 19 % of the people who visited the campaign internet page also downloaded
the recycling envelope. From the ones who had downloaded the envelope 64 % returned it
to recycling, while the envelopes that were distributed elsewhere (street, retail) 29 % were
returned. These very high return rates were achieved when envelopes were given to those
who showed some interest in recycling. Envelopes are being stored at home and they are
being used later, when there is something to return. It has been seen that envelopes are
returned even five years after the campaign has finished. When different distribution
methods have been compared it can be concluded that the most efficient return rate can be
achieved when people download or pick up the envelope themselves, rather that when it is
provided to them.
The phone models which have been returned in recycling campaigns are rather old,
typically from the 1990’s. In addition to mobile phones, return envelopes have included
batteries, chargers and plastic covers. This indicates consumers have been saving handsets,
old parts and even plastics waiting for a proper and easy disposal option. An average of
14 % of the envelope includes more than one phone. 12 % of envelopes have not had a
phone but they contained accessories and batteries and 60 % included one phone with a
battery. People typically have more than one item for recycling, in 2009 envelopes contained
an average 1.43 items and 1.05 phones, showing small decrease from the first campaign in
2006 with 1.52 items and 1.1 mobile phones.
4.5 Utilizing consumer insight
The main barrier for phone recycling is that people like to keep the phones as spare or back-
up. Figure 10. shows the ten main reasons for not recycling a mobile phone. According to
Nokia consumer survey, globally over a third of the respondents claimed to have kept their
last mobile phones, see also figure 3. People in developed countries are particularly likely to
keep their old mobile phone, whereas in developing nations people are more likely to seek
further value from their old phone by giving it to someone else, or selling or trading it for a
new phone. Following the desire to keep old mobile phones as spares, awareness is also a
major barrier to recycling, with a fifth of respondents citing this as the reason for not
recycling their previous phone. This is particularly relevant in the developing countries
where there is the lowest awareness that mobile phones can be recycled and where they can
be recycled. The study also showed that there is an opportunity to encourage more recycling
Related links:

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