BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Technology  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 10:39 GMT
A mobile is not just for Christmas
Mobile phone
Do not throw away your old phone - recycle it instead
The big mobile phone manufacturers agreed this week at a United Nations conference to make their handsets easier to recycle.

They had little choice. Pressure is mounting on industry in key markets, such as the European Union, to take a bigger responsibility for electronic waste - or e-waste as it is being called.

Legislation will force manufacturers to account for the metals and plastic they mould into the latest communication tool.

But consumers will also have to play their part in the deal as well. Indeed, the critical issue in this recycling drive could be in educating people on how to recycle their mobile phones properly, instead of just keeping hold of them or putting them in the bin.

Hazardous waste

In the UK, about 15 million mobile phones are bought each year.

Over 75% of the UK population owns one or more mobiles, which they replace on average every 18 months - but only 10% of owners consider recycling their phones.

Manufacturers have set up a scheme called Fonebak, which allows customers to return unwanted phones for re-use or recycling; many are sent to developing countries that have poor land based communication systems.

Freepost envelopes are available in over 1,200 retail outlets and you can even return packaging and accessories.

The main problems are with the batteries used to power the phones, especially older ones that used cadmium, which is toxic to humans and wildlife and can easily enter the environment once the casing has corroded.

The cadmium from one mobile phone battery is enough to pollute 600,000 litres of water.

New technology uses lithium ions or nickel metal hydrides which can be recovered and recycled.

However all rechargeable batteries contain toxic materials and should be recycled at end-of-life rather than sent to incinerators and landfills.

Its not just the batteries that cause problems, the printed wiring boards at the heart of mobile communications contain a variety of precious metals and hazardous substances including gold, arsenic, chromium, lead, nickel, silver and zinc.

Many of these chemicals are linked to certain cancers and neurological disorders and can have devastating effects on wildlife when released into the environment.

Rough estimates suggest that the UK will generate around 4.6 tonnes of lead by 2005 from mobile phones alone.

This figure increases dramatically when other e-waste - personal computers, televisions and stereos - is added into the equation.

See also:

20 Dec 02 | Technology
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Technology stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Technology stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes