Is Mobile Phone Recycling the Answer?

Saturday, November 27th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

There are plenty of news articles written on the growth of mobile phone recycling and how we all need to do more to slow down the huge increase in e-waste generation and the threat to the planet.

However, one of the main drivers behind the problem is the built-in obsolescence in the manufacture of products such as mobile phones. Manufacturers deliberately curtail the life-span of mobile phones, not so much by building them to last for a short period, but by relentless technological advances that result in new “must have” versions.

Government waste management policy emphasis has shifted from recycling towards waste prevention and this is putting pressure on manufacturers to produce products that last longer.  The trouble is that in mass markets both manufacturers and retailers are under pressure to turnover products rapidly.  Consumers want the latest style, the most advanced technology and are more concerned with features and convenience rather than how long the product lasts.  In the mobile phone market this results in perfectly functioning handsets being discarded after 2 to 3 years.  Retailers are continually having to work hard to price attractively, which puts pressures on manufacturers to cut corners on quality to reduce costs.  The mobile phone market is saturated and is dependent on repeat sales, so marketing strategies promote the latest models, constantly encouraging consumers to upgrade and discard fairly recent models.

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