Mobile phone recycling - good for you and the environment

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Top Dollar Mobile says recycling handsets stops harmful chemicals leaking into the environment and saves resources - but too few of us are doing it

Mobile phone recycling is big business, but it's not just good for the bottom line. Recycling mobile phones keeps hazardous chemicals out of landfills and preserves resources.

It's clear that the mobile phone market is one of the most competitive markets in the world; as demonstrated by consumers' behaviour - in the UK we replace our handsets every 12-18 months. Last year, the Samsung Galaxy S3 was the best-selling mobile phone, followed by the Apple iPhone 5.

In 2000, only half of UK adults said that they had a mobile phone, but according to recent research, 92 per cent of people over the age of 16 in the UK now own at least one mobile phone.

But what's more fascinating is there are more mobile phones in the UK than people! We have 81.6 million mobile subscriptions in the UK, with a population of 63 million, which means many of us have more than one phone!

Worldwide, things are catching up. A report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said there were about six billion phone subscriptions across the globe. When you consider there are nearly seven billion people on Earth, it means there are nearly as many mobile phone subscriptions in the world as people.

And that's not all.

There are an estimated 90 million mobile phones sitting unused or forgotten in drawers and cupboards in the UK, which is where recycling comes in. Even old, used or non-working mobile phones can be recycled in order for resources and metals to be reused. According to Nokia just three per cent of people recycle their unwanted handsets across the world, and nearly half are not even aware that you can sell mobile phones for recycling.

How does recycling help? If handsets are not disposed of correctly, they can create toxic waste in landfill that can leech out into the soil and groundwater, causing serious damage to the environment and human health. In the US, an estimated 70 per cent of heavy metals in landfills comes from discarded electronics.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 141 million mobile phones were discarded in 2009 and only 12 million of those were collected for recycling. This begs the question - what happened to the other 129 million? Maybe, like the UK, owners are stuffing them in drawers and forgetting about them, but perhaps they are ending up in landfill and causing untold damage.

As well as containing harmful heavy metals, mobile phones contain precious materials such as silver, gold and platinum. These valuable materials can be retrieved, which helps reduce mining and preserves resources.

Every aspect of the life cycle of a mobile phone demands resources and energy - from materials extraction, processing raw materials, manufacturing, packaging and transport, useful life right through to end of life disposal; so we owe it to ourselves and our environment to reduce those demands as much as possible.

The mobile phone is here to stay - mobile communication is vital for the UK's economic structure and in promoting social inclusion. And for the first time, the volume of calls from mobile phones exceeded the volume of calls from landlines in 2011. In addition, many homes have no fixed line; they use mobile technology instead. The market will continue to flourish, consumers will continue to upgrade and resources will be mined and used.

Is it time to sift through your unwanted handsets? Call an amnesty on your staff; no questions asked! Bundle up the handsets and send them off to be recycled. It could be a simple way to boost your income this month AND do your bit for the environment!

This sponsored content was provided by Top Dollar Mobile, an international mobile phone recycler.

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