Photo via enmoto via Flickr CC
It takes getting something in return - and more than the warm fuzzy feeling you're saving the planet - to get people to recycle mobile phones. A new study by ABI Research shows some really sad statistics, including that of the people who have recycled cell phones, only 5% will send in their mobile phone without any incentive. And for those who haven't recycled cell phones, 98% are willing if they get cash, store credit, or a tax deduction for their effort. All of this is adding up to mobile phone manufacturers having a tough time meeting goals for recycling rates. According to a press release by IDG Connect, out of the 1,000 people surveyed in the study, only 38% recycled a phone, and 70% of them received a tax deduction or other incentive.
The study is small, with 1,000 people hardly representative of an entire country. But the results align with both older studies that draw the same conclusion, as well as dismal recycling rates on record. And the success of reward-based recycling programs such as RecycleBank underscores the point.
Consumers want something in return for their phone that they don't want anymore, and giving them something such as store credit or cash, or making a charitable donation is part of that, as is making it as easy as humanly possible for them to send in or drop off their phones.
But that also makes it tough on manufacturers and recycling companies who dole out a lot of money on recycling programs. Nokia is one such company, who wants to recycle one phone for every phone they manufacture. However, according to PC Magazine, the company estimates it is recycling 5 million to 9 million phones per year while selling 108.5 million phones in the third quarter of last year alone.
"We have noticed that [offering a reward] increases the chance of people bringing back their mobile," said Saara Tahvanainen , communications manager for sustainability at Nokia. "Even if the incentive is that we give money to charities interest increases," said Tahvanainen.
Sprint hasn't been terribly successful to reach their goal either, recycling only about 30% of their mobile phones while their target is 90%.
Recycled mobile phones don't just get broken down and the useful materials harvested. Recycled phones also play a huge role in mobile activism worldwide, with excellent programs using recycled mobile phones from places like the US as a key ingredient.
Donating a phone not only keeps toxins out of landfills and increases energy efficiency by avoiding the use of recycling plants, but it also means a better life for people and wildlife in many ways. It seems it'll take more than that, however, to ramp up recycling rates.