More than five billion mobile phones are just tucked away in drawers gathering dust, according to the GSM Association. But the consortium has a plan for these unused electronics.
You see, mobile phones are worth salvaging as they are a mine of precious metals and other valuable resources. Considering the environmentally intensive process of mining and refining new metals, the GSMA along with 12 carriers around the globe have announced a project to develop what they call a “circular” supply chain and be less dependent on the “take-make-dispose” approach on resource consumption.
By the year 2030, the consortium and its partnered carriers aim to have the number of used mobile devices collected through take-back programs reach at least 20 percent of new mobile devices distributed to customers. They also want to ensure that all these collected devices are either repaired, reused, or handed over to regulated recycling organizations.
By achieving these targets, GSMA seeks to reduce electronic waste through increased lifespan of mobile devices. Compared to a newly manufactured phone, a refurbished phone has reduced climate impact by as much as 87 percent.
If all five billion phones are collected, GSMA estimates $8 billion worth of gold, silver, copper and other resources could be recovered. The effort could also yield enough cobalt to manufacture 10 million electric car batteries.
The operators involved in this GSMA project include BT Group, GO Malta, Iliad, KDDI, NOS, Orange, Proximus, Safaricom, Singtel, Tele2 and Telefonica. In the Philippines, only Globe Telecom has signed up so far.