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Earth Hour Header 2014
RECYCLING MOBILE PHONES BY JOSETTE DE VROEG
It sounds a bit like Virtual Insanity: your mobile phone's Second Life… But actually, you can easily find some horror elements related to this subject which unfortunately are not too well known to the public at large.
First let me check this with you readers out there: Do you remember your first mobile phone? A look-a-like of the phone Don Johnson had in Miami Vice? Or the one MacGyver used for disarming that bomb? Or that really really old Nokia phone, that didn't quite fit into your pocket, and was the major cause of hernia around the globe.
Now I’m asking you to be honest, how many old mobile phones are lying around in your house, not being used at all? The type of phone that has been classified ‘a spare phone’ - for about 4 years now.
Allow me to give you a few little pieces of (trivial) information…
Worldwide, billions of mobile phones are in use (last estimate: around 4.5 billion active phone users). Developing areas such as Africa, Latin America and Asia have already long passed developed countries when looking at the number of mobile phone subscribers. It’s an explosive growth that seems to keep on going, which is great for my organization - Text to Change (TTC) – which uses mobile phone technology in developing countries to improve people’s lives. In order to encourage behavioral change, we use text messaging (SMS); a way to communicate that hardly existed in Africa 8 years ago, but is now by far the best way to get in touch. And so, thanks to the world’s incredibly rapid adaptation to that little piece of technology that even your grandparents use nowadays, TTC can gratefully use a highly effective communication channel for health education, encouraging testing and drug compliance.
What we definitely need to understand, is that there is another side to this explosive growth of mobile phones and other gadgets worldwide. First, let me fill you in on the bad news. Mother Nature was playing quite a devious game when it decided where to put its treasures: metals such as gold, silver, copper - but also the less familiar ones that are essential to almost all electronic goods: coltan, palladium, platinum, etc – can mainly be found countries that suffer from dictators, (civil) wars and lawlessness. You won’t be surprised that this political situation is preventing fair distribution of the wealth that could potentially come from digging up these precious elements (to say it nicely).
The good news is that part of the solution is quite simple and beneficial for just about everyone in the cycle. The thing that should be done more and more, is to understand that there actually is no such thing as an electronic product that we should throw away, also called e-waste (yes; there is a term for everything…). Why? Because of the opportunities of reuse, and if all else fails; recycling.
We have worked together with a company in the Netherlands, called zwipit, which focuses solely on reuse & recycling. They buy (yes: they pay money!) your redundant phone, upgrade it and then make sure it is used again. Just think about what this means: about 100 million phones are considered redundant in Europe alone, every year! How many of them are reused / recycled at the moment? Less than 8%!! My guess is that this is mainly due to the fact that most people don’t know about this, so spread the word!