Studies have found that most people don’t recycle their electronic devices. New research from the international waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) forum shows that around 5.3 billion mobile phones will be thrown away this year alone.
It’s estimated that there are around 16 billion mobile phones worldwide, with many no longer in use. The researchers estimate that billions will be discarded based on global trade data.
According to the study’s authors, the issue of “e-waste” is a significant and growing environmental problem as the precious minerals in phones, like the copper in wire or the cobalt in rechargeable batteries must be mined.
Research suggests that many people choose to keep their old phones instead of recycling them. In fact, in a recent survey, 20% of the participants said that they had four or more broken or unused cell phones at home and 45% said they had never recycled an electronic item.
WEEE director general Pascal Leroy said: “People tend not to realize that all these seemingly insignificant items have a lot of value and together at a global level represent massive volumes.”
Magdalena Charytanowicz from the WEEE added: “These devices offer many important resources that can be used in the production of new electronic devices or other equipment, such as wind turbines, electric car batteries or solar panels – all crucial for the green, digital transition to low-carbon societies.”
The United Nations International Telecommunication Union currently has targets in place to increase the amount of e-waste being recycled properly by at least 30%.
According to the agency, it is one of the “fastest growing and most complex waste streams that affects both human health and the environment, as it can contain harmful substances”.
As one of the most common reasons for consumers not recycling their electronics is that it’s too complicated, the organization’s online campaign also includes tips on what can be recycled, how to do it, finding recycling centers, and more.