Push to extend mobile ownership lifespan

Wednesday, 18 October, 2023

Push to extend mobile ownership lifespan

The World Phone Amnesty is a global movement hoping to transform mobile phone ownership behaviour, curb carbon emissions, and reduce the number of devices being discarded every year.

Approximately 83% of a phone’s carbon emissions come from manufacturing, shipping and first-year usage. Keeping a smartphone in use for an extra two years can reduce its CO2 impact by 43%.

The rising cost of living, coupled with interest in sustainable alternatives and phone durability, is prompting a change to the way people manage their devices. Australians are ready to make the change, with a study showing 41% of households are willing to purchase a second-hand phone.

The World Phone Amnesty is a year of action to generate global awareness and drive device circulation, highlighting the benefits of behavioural change and phone ownership. The movement calls for consumers to hand on existing mobile phones when purchasing a new one, ensuring the handset is given an extended lifespan.

Around 5.3 billion phones are prematurely discarded globally every year, adding to the estimated annual total of 50 million tonnes of e-waste — the equivalent weight of all the commercial aircraft ever made.

Organisers said the Amnesty has the potential to revolutionise our consumption of mobile phones by amplifying awareness. The program was developed by Kingfisher, a mobile experience company aiming to create sustainable solutions for the telco industry.

By calling on individuals and organisations to embrace a more sustainable form of device ownership via the circular economy, the organisation said consumers can buy the latest devices and know that old phones are given a new home and used to their full potential.

“Today, phones are designed to last longer than ever, for seven or eight years. The longer lifespan means phones can have three or more owners, rather than ending up in a drawer or landfill,” said Georgiann Reigle, Kingfisher Co-Founder and CEO.

“It is unrealistic to expect consumers to use a single device for that long. But while we understand the desire to own a new phone, the World Phone Amnesty highlights the benefits of extending the lifecycles of all the other ones, in order to maximise the potential of each device to reduce its carbon footprint.”

In Australia, although 35% of households own at least one second-hand device, the benefit of putting phones back into circulation before discarding or recycling isn’t well understood. The simple act of handing in a mobile phone, giving it a second, third and fourth life, is proven to create significant impact.

The numbers underlying the program are convincing:

  • In 2023, there are 6.92 billion smartphone users — 85.95% of the world’s population.
  • Globally, almost 180 million used mobile devices will be sold in the circular economy in 2023, while approximately one billion will be sent to landfill and billions more will be left in drawers, closets, cupboards or garages, tossed into waste bins, or headed for incineration.
  • Each year, 5.3 billion phones are thrown away — placed end-to-end, they would stretch to the moon and back.*
  • Manufacturing a brand new phone creates 81 kg of carbon dioxide — that’s enough carbon dioxide to fill 40,000 balloons.
  • A second-life phone, used for two years, creates 24.6 kg CO2e less carbon emissions per year, compared to a new phone used for three years.
  • Extending the life of a device removes the need to extract 82 kg of raw materials associated with the production of a new one.

The World Phone Amnesty web portal offers Australians a comprehensive resource for trading in or upgrading mobile phones.

Image credit: iStock.com/Kar-Tr

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