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article imageUnused mobile phones are wasting £100 million of gold says report

By James Walker     Jun 7, 2015 in Technology
A study has found that over £100 million worth of gold is being wasted inside unused or broken mobile phones in the UK alone. It suggests that mobile operators should be doing much more to encourage the recycling of old devices.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Surrey. According to the Independent, it concluded that if all of the estimated 85 million unused mobile phones in the UK were recycled then £110 million and 84,000 tons of carbon dioxide would be saved.
Led by Dr James Suckling, the group found that there is currently a lack of mobile phone recycling facilities available. When combined with two-year contracts from mobile operators, many people will accumulate as many as five phones in a decade but will typically only ever use one.
The Independent reports that Dr Suckling writes in the study: "The current business model encourages customers to upgrade frequently. Our study shows that there is little incentive to recycle old mobiles. This leaves many unused devices lingering in drawers until they are eventually thrown away."
The research suggests that mobile phone operators could take phones back from customers at the end of a contract and send them for recycling, describing this as "instrumental" in lowering the waste of precious metals. Such a "take-back clause" could prove very unpopular with consumers who like their phones though, potentially leading people to buy devices SIM-free, directly from the manufacturer, just so that they can actually own their phone.
Another method pitched is a "cloud-based" system where much of a phone's computing power would be performed by remote Internet servers so that less metals are needed for the phone. This also seems unrealistic for now though, especially in the UK where mobile blackspots are still numerous.
The study estimates that there is around four tons of gold inside the unused phones in the UK's households today. There are charities that will recycle mobile phones - and some companies online will even pay you when you donate yours - so if you have an old, unloved phone that you don't want and won't use again then perhaps consider how it would be best used.
More about Mobile, Phone, Gold, Waste, Money
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