Mountain of waste mobile phones could become molehill

A UK company has launched a recycling scheme for mobile phones that will help solve the problem of the 15 million phones that are discarded every year in the country. It is the world’s first phone recycling scheme to have the backing of an entire nation’s network service providers.

Sheilds Environmental’s new Fonebak scheme also has the backing of four major high-street electrical retail chains, and it complies with the forthcoming European directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), which comes into force next year. The new legislation will require mobile phone producers and distributors to be responsible for taking back and recycling old handsets and accessories.

“Over 15 million consumers upgrade their phones with accessories such as batteries and chargers each year, which equates to some 1,500 tonnes of potentially hazardous landfill every year,” said Shields Environmental CEO Gordon Shields. “Fonebak has been launched to address this problem and provides a safe and environmentally responsible way for businesses to manage the return of handsets and accessories.”

Individuals wishing to recycle their unwanted phones have three options, says Shields. You can:

  • return them to O2, Orange, T-Mobile or Vodafone stores throughout the UK;
  • use a Freepost envelope, available from the following high street stores: Virgin Mobile, Currys, Dixons, The Link or PC World; or
  • contact Virgin Mobile, Orange, Currys, Dixons, The Link or PC World customer care centres to order a Freepost envelope.

Each phone will be rigorously tested to determine whether it can be re-used or recycled, says Shields Environmental.

“Fonebak demonstrates UK leadership in environmental responsibility,” said UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher. “The fact that the mobile phone industry in the UK has worked together to develop a solution demonstrates a responsible commitment to the environment and sets the standard for the rest of the world.”

Recently, edie reported on a UK company that won a Queens Award for Enterprise for its computer recycling scheme involving the renovation and re-sale of usable machines and recycling of others (see related story).

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