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This article was published on June 18, 2012

5 ways that recycled mobile phones are changing the world

5 ways that recycled mobile phones are changing the world
Harrison Weber
Story by

Harrison Weber

Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email. Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email.

This post has been made possible by Top Dollar Mobile.

Dealing with a complete overload of old mobile phone hardware is a relatively new problem for our society to have to deal with, and unfortunately most households end up going with one of two non-solutions: keeping them stacked up in a drawer or throwing them out into a landfill. As you might guess, neither of these techniques do any good, but what on earth should you do with those aging, dusty gadgets?

Not long ago Orange commissioned a study to promote its recycling scheme, and it found that a whopping £2.7bn worth of mobile phones are simply lying around unused in people’s homes across the UK. Despite that extremely large number of phone owners that seem to think otherwise, it turns out that mobile phones actually have quite a lot of potential packed into them, and so we pulled together this list of 5 ways that recycled mobile phones are changing the world:

1. Giving to those in need

Photo by a.drian

As notes, “mobile phone handsets are typically used for just eighteen months before being replaced,” and so there’s a ton of potential for these products to be donated for the greater good to those in need. Programs like these are probably quite familiar to you, and there’s a reason why there are: countless charities embrace them because they work. alone reported that it has raised over £16,000 through mobile phone donations, and since these are donations that typically cost the donor absolutely nothing, that’s a very powerful number to see..

2 The beauty of hacking

Image via Hack a Day

The sheer abundance of mobile phones, given that many people follow a 2 year life cycle, leaves households around the world with drawers full of aging electronics waiting to be played with. From hacking virtually every model on the market, to strange and obscure projects and experiments on popular sites like Hack a Day, there’s no doubt that your inner geek will see the potential.

3 Solving real environmental problems

This one’s obvious: A recent report from UK mobile operator O2 found that as many as 17 million gadgets, including mobile phones, sat-navs and music players bypass recycling schemes and head straight to landfill sites. The problem here is clear, as all the materials that make your phone run, the circuit boards, batteries and LCD screens, are undoubtedly harmful to the environment (especially materials like tantalum, indium and dysprosium) when they break down in dumps and trash heaps.

In short, recycling electronics like mobile phones is simply the right thing to do, providing an environmentally sound solution to a major problem..

4 Reselling is the best kind of recycling

Photo by Gian Cayetano

Reselling is just like reusing, and as the old saying goes “reduce, reuse, recycle.” In other words, recycling and buying green products is great and all, but actually making sure a product is used to its maximum potential keeps manufacturing purposeful.

Back to that Orange study, remember that as much as £2.7bn worth of mobile phones are lying unused in homes throughout the UK. This means that there is an astronomical potential here for cash and electronic parts to re-enter the market, which could help drive new purchases and make us all a bit of money.

5 Art

Recycled Art by Michelle Stitzlein

Those less involved with the creative pursuits might shun this, but recycled and upcycled products have a significant role in modern art. In all seriousness, some absolutely amazing work has surfaced over the years, as artists have realized the potential of discarded objects — turning trash into beauty. It’s just one more example of what can come out of a device that would have otherwise been abandoned.

All in all, it’s simply important to remember that these electronics have a lot of potential, even when you’re perfectly fine ditching them in exchange for the latest and greatest iPhone. What do you do with your old phones?

Top image credit: CannedTuna