Electronics Waste: Recycling of Mobile Phone
campaign utilized old iconic Nokia phones such as Cityman, Nokia 3310, Nokia 8810, Nokia
5110 and Nokia 2760 and gave them different personalities. Phones were tweeting about
recycling in order to make it fun and interesting and they also gave practical hints on where
and how to recycle. During the 3 weeks of the campaign time it reached 170 000 people
online in 44 countries and created 2800 Facebook likes. The campaign was translated also
into Chinese and run in Chinese social media channels. These digital marketing campaigns
are changing recycling attitudes and help to move towards a recycling society.
Electronics waste is globally an increasing waste stream that needs to be directed to
proper recycling systems in order to save precious natural resources and to avoid
contamination caused by landfilling or waste incineration practices. Product end of life is
a process with three main steps from consumer collection to pretreatment and material
refinery. First step of the process, collection, is a prerequisite for the rest of the process.
The main challenge there is to get people to return their old products for recycling when
they no longer need them. Consumer attitudes and recycling behavior has been studied
in many countries to improve the success of the recycling programs. The most important
factors enhancing the recycling behavior are convenience and awareness on where and
how to recycle. The inhibiting factors for recycling are the emotional attachment to the
old phone and willingness to keep a spare product. The following steps of the recycling
process, pre-treatment and refinery are the ones where possible environmental risks may
take place in the cases where e-waste is not handled properly. With proper technologies
100% of the materials in a mobile phone can be recovered and nothing needs to be
First mobile phone recycling programs started in the late 90’s in Europe. Today Nokia is
offering recycling programs for mobile phones in almost 100 countries. At the company’s
own premises waste sorting can be very efficient leading to true closed loop material circles.
When take back of obsolete phones from consumers is discussed, the challenge is more in
the awareness raising and in building up the eco efficient collection infrastructure at
different parts of the world. Financial incentives can be used in initiating the recycling
behavior, but the importance of them is getting lower when recycling becomes a daily habit.
The different phases for starting a recycling program have been presented from building up
a recycling infrastructure to partnerships and to different marketing campaigns. One of the
main learning has been the usage of right language and tonality to communicate the benefits
for recycling and finding the right partners, and most importantly long-term commitment to
programs. Consumers who have recycled their old mobile phone have been reported to
increase from 3 % to 9 % between 2007 and 2011. There are differences between developed
and developing markets in the access to recycling points and information, but the
importance of the topic is becoming globally understood.
Big thanks to the Sustainability team members at Nokia Markets who provided information
on the local recycling programs and to River Research at London for consumer insight on