New research about smart phone recycling

15 January 2019

Close to 70% of Dutch people have an old unused smartphone lying around

After plastic soup, electronic waste, which is the fastest growing waste stream in the world, is also threatening to become a serious problem. In the past ten years alone, over 7 billion smartphones have been produced worldwide. These are ultimately going to result in a huge waste stream of 'old' mobile phones. Research into the average Dutch person's knowledge about sustainability, recycling and e-waste commissioned by T-Mobile and Closing the Loop shows that over three-quarters of Dutch people would like to give their old smartphone a second life. However, 64% of them indicate that they do not have a clue where to recycle their gadget. T-Mobile, together with Closing the Loop, a social enterprise working to make mobile phones 'circular', took an initial step in the battle against the rapidly growing e-waste stream. Together, they introduced a recycling program which promotes the reuse and recycling of smartphones.

And the research shows that there is a real need for this. Around three-quarters of Dutch people say that they have no idea what e-waste is. Almost the whole of the Dutch population aged 18 or older are environmentally conscious to some extent. They mainly focus on conserving energy, for example by using energy-efficient light bulbs. But it’s also common to separate waste, take shorter showers or have things repaired instead of binning them.

Only 14% of Dutch people recycle their smartphone

Seven out of ten Dutch people have an old smartphone lying around. Still, only 14% mentioned they would recycle their old smartphone. One important reason for this could be that a large majority - close to two-thirds - of Dutchies have no idea where they can hand in their smartphone for recycling. Joost de Kluijver, Director Closing of the Loop reacts: "The research shows how important it is to properly inform people and to facilitate recycling even more effectively. The purchase of a new handset is a perfect moment to inform customers and to help them find a better use for their old one. That is why it is important for telecom operators to promote this."

Half of all smartphone owners want to hold on to their smartphone

The most frequently given answer to the question as to what people do with their old smartphones (by nearly half of the respondents), was that they hold on to them, followed by giving them away (36%) and selling them on (20%). Ten percent of Dutch people nevertheless also say that they are not willing to take their smartphone to a recycling collection point. They would prefer to hold on to it as a spare phone.

At the same time over three-quarters of smartphone owners indicate that they are considering making a different choice and giving their old smartphone a second life. Over half of them also say that they are considering handing in their smartphone at a recycling collection point.

Valuable raw materials

A smartphone contains countless valuable raw materials that can be reused such as gold, silver and copper. As a result of old smartphones being thrown away, a large proportion now still ends up on the trash heap and these raw materials are not being reused, which is a pity. Over half of Dutch people are not aware of the fact that their smartphone contains gold or silver. Søren Abildgaard, T-Mobile Netherlands' CEO; "This is when we need to actively contribute to a more sustainable use of the valuable raw materials and we, as a telecom operator, need to take our responsibility. That is why we are creating awareness among our customers. Our ultimate goal is to encourage the whole telecoms sector to join in. In collaboration with Closing the Loop we have started an innovative recycling program that tackles e-waste and stimulates circularity in the telecoms sector. We are pleased to see that the research shows that over half the country are considering taking out a subscription with an option like this."