A dozen mobile network operators and the GSMA have agreed to new targets to reuse and recycle all mobile devices by 2030.
Operators who signed up to the agreement include: BT Group, Globe Telecom, GO Malta, Iliad, KDDI, NOS, Orange, Proximus, Safaricom, Singtel, Tele2 and Telefonica.
The new agreement, led by Tele 2 and Orange, will speed up the move from ‘take-make-dispose’ approach to the materials used in mobile phones.
The agreement builds on the GSMA’s Strategy Paper for Circular Economy: Mobile Devices published last November.This calls for devices having as long a lifetime as possible, made with 100 per cent recyclable and recycled content, 100 per cent renewable energy, and where no device ends up as waste.
Operators pledge to increase take-back of mobile phones so the number of devices they take back is 20 per cent of the number of new mobile devices distributed directly to customers.
They will also repair, refurbish or reuse all the devices they collect in take-back. Devices that can’t be reused or repaired will be sent to controlled recycling organizations.
The GSMA reckons more than five billion used mobile phones in the world are not being reuse or recycled and that $8 billion worth of gold, palladium, silver, copper, rare earth elements, and other critical minerals could be recovered from these dives. This would supply enough cobalt to power 10 million electric car batteries.
The new set of goals is intended to reduce ‘e-waste’, extending the longevity of mobile devices by giving them a second life, as well as recycling materials to be used in new smartphones.
“Using such materials effectively could potentially lower the cost of manufacturing mobile phones, and tackle affordability barriers that are preventing more people from getting online. Operators recognise further work is needed to address concerns such as data privacy and the desire to keep a spare device that stop people from returning handsets, said the GSMA , Chief Regulatory Officer John Giusti.
“We believe in the need to move to a more circular economy to reduce the impact of mobile technology on the environment. In addition to the environmental benefits, more efficient and responsible use of resources could lower costs and make devices more affordable for the unconnected.”
Philippe Lucas, EVP, Devices and Partnerships, Orange, said:
“This initiative underlines the momentum in the operator community to boost decarbonisation and the circular economy Orange is playing a pivotal role in working with hardware and OS providers to attain net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.”
Erik Wottrich, Head of Sustainability at Tele2 said: “The growing amount of e-waste generated each year is an environmental challenge and also a huge loss of potential financial value. I hope that more operators will join us in the ambition of zero waste and increased take-back rate by 2030.”