A UK phone recycling scheme managed by Telecommunications company O2 has achieved an important milestone in 2019.   Set up ten years ago, more than three million handsets have been recycled and saved from going into landfill.

There are over 40 million unused devices in the UK according to industry experts.  Over 82% of households own at least one surplus handheld handset.  In terms of intention, 20% plan to recycle the phones while around 15% would like to sell them. 

Longest running phone initiative 

The O2 Recycle scheme launched in 2009 was in partnership with Redeem.  It has become the UK’s longest-running phone recycling initiative.  Above all, the scheme revolves around when customers upgrade a phone.  They send off their old device and as a result receive a credit against the purchase of a new one.

O2 believe they have saved over 450 tonnes of waste from going into landfill.  In terms of payback to O2 customers the scheme has paid over EUR 263 million back through discounts on new phones.

In the UK September is the most popular month for recycling.  It coincides with the launch of new phone models.  Expectations are high for record results, with 70% of those phones collected, iphones.

In Australia there are a range of phone recycling programmes, including Mobile Muster.  In contrast to the UK, no telco has yet come out a recycling program that achieves the environmental benefit and financial incentive to the customer that O2 has achieved.

Recycal, through its new ‘ecobatt and ecoe-waste’ businesses, have had discussions with many of Australia’s largest retailers.  Those discussions and the business model they are adopting are likely to have major implications on the future structure of the industry.  The ‘ecobatt’ manufacturing plant will be open in the second quarter of next year and their model is based on a comprehensive collection and sorting process that will embrace the recycling of batteries. Later in the year ecoe-waste will become operational with a focus on e-waste of televisions, and other electrical products from which valuable elements can be extracted and recycled.


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