Where is your used mobile phone?

In Europe, only 10 percent of used mobile phones are currently returned to service providers for recycling. Most of the old handsets are stored at home. Accenture conducted a survey including 800 mobile phone users in 2003 in order to find out where the used mobile phones are going.

"More then 60 percent are kept at home and 18 percent have been handed on to someone else. A mobile phone can have even three users during its life cycle," says Manager Jaana Järvinen of Accenture.

At the moment, Nokia phones can be returned to Nokia’s own Service Points or Care centers, collection points of the industry sector’s take-back schemes, or to municipal collection. Also, operators are organizing campaigns for take-back. The mixture of take-back channels varies from country to country depending on the infrastructure and recycling culture. Only Nokia’s own take-back channels are under Nokia control.

A forthcoming EU directive makes producers of electrical and electronic equipment partly responsible for the waste handling of this equipment in all EU member states. Studies indicated that the share of telecommunications equipment out of electronic scrap is about 1 percent.

Nokia estimates the global market volume for mobile phones was around 471 million units in 2003. If the average weight of a phone is 130 grams, the total mass of the phones would be about 61,000 tons. The share of Nokia phones would be about 23,000 tons, which equals a single cargo shipment.

For the electronics companies, take-back and recycling add value. They support brand value and customer loyalty and inspire customer insights. They also demonstrate environmental responsibility and improve the bottom line.

The challenge faced in take-back programs will be how to make mobile phone users to do their share and return the used products for recycling. By bringing the used mobile to a take-back point the customers make sure that used phones will not end up in landfills in their own or other countries. Instead, the recyclable raw materials can be used again in new products.