A call to mobilise old phones into action

Cashing in your old mobile for reuse has never been simpler - an online phone recycling scheme is encouraging local authorities to get involved and earn money in the process

An online mobile phone recycling scheme that pays cash to people for every mobile they recycle, as well as rewarding their favourite charity or cause, has generated tens of thousands of phones for reuse over the past six months.

The website-based scheme, envirofone.com, was launched in January to encourage members of the public to recycle unused mobiles. According to envirofone.com, over 15 million mobile phones are sold or upgraded in the UK each year, but less than 20% are recycled.

The scheme works through partner organisations – such as charities, community groups, and commercial organisations – who sign up to promote the campaign to their respective supporters. For every phone traded in, envirofone makes a donation to both the supporter and the partner organisation.

Visitors to the site can look up how much their old phone is worth and then trade it in, either for cash or Argos credits. Registering is simple, and is followed a few days later with a welcome pack in the post including a Freepost to send in an unused mobile.

Envirofone.com tends to work with charities as routes to harvesting old mobiles. However, local authorities can also become involved with the scheme – currently, the most active LA support is coming from East Riding of Yorkshire and Humberside, where the local communities have become the first in the UK to get access to the scheme.

The campaign is supported by the City of Hull & Humber Environment Forum (CHEF) and Kingston Communications, and forms part of Target 45+ – East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s and Hull City Council’s joint plan for sustainable waste management.

To promote the scheme, Kingston Communications sent out 280,000 leaflets to homes and businesses throughout Hull & East Yorkshire informing them of how to cash in old mobiles. CHEF receives a donation for every trade made – money to help it raise awareness in the region about the need to recycle.

Keeping it in the community

“What we are doing in Hull and East Riding, we can do for other communities anywhere in the UK,” says Pete Petrondas, founder of envirofone.com. “Everyone who gets involved is a winner. The donor gets money for their old mobiles, fewer phones are sent to landfill sites, and partner organisations can raise funds for their cause.”

He says that more councils can get involved with a little bit of imagination. “We want the householder to do something and they [councils] can promote their own envirofone site at a variety of locations in the community – such as drop-in centres, with council tax bills, or at recycling points.”

He adds that while LAs have recycling targets, the objective of envirofone is to get phones while they are still working. “Many local authorities seem to think that they can request electronics to be put in the standard recycling bin, but the reality of it is that if phones get wet they are useless for reuse. Our objective is very much life extension rather than breaking things down.”

The phones aren’t broken down, but refurbished if necessary and sold on for reuse – according to Petrondas, the average usable life of a mobile is at least four years and if they need reconditioning, this can be extended up to six years.

One of the first partners of the scheme, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, has so far earned £4,400 for its efforts while its supporters have earned more than £19,000 in cash and Argos credits.

Since its launch, envirofone.com has been a great success – the website received 9.69 million hits in May alone, with over 1.5 million page views.

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LAWR would like to hear of any successful recycling initiatives.

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