Vodafone’s One for One Phone Recycling Program will bring old phones back to life | MarketingwithAnoy

An unfortunate consequence of our collective craving for shiny new gadgets is a growing mountain (sometimes literally) of electronic waste. Too many of our devices are difficult to recycle, and so much of our e-waste ends up in landfills where toxic chemicals can seep into the ground and contaminate the local water supply.

That Global E-Waste Statistics Partnership estimates that we produce more than 50 million tonnes of e-waste every year and recycle only 20 percent. We throw away phones, monitors and countless other devices that can be refurbished and pushed back into use or dismantled to harvest the useful materials inside.

But how do you get producers to participate? Waste Compensation Company Closing the loop (CTL) connects technology producers with communities to consume technology more sustainably. Today, the company announced its deal with Vodafone in Germany, where the telecommunications company promises that “for every cell phone sold to private customers, we bring an old one back into circulation.”

Money for old phones

Vodafone intends to do this in part through the One for One initiative, where CTL buys end-of-life devices that are completely unusable or unrepairable, using collection networks based mainly in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. Instead of ending up in landfills, these devices are recycled professionally to extract gold, silver, copper and cobalt that can return to circulation.

CTL worked with Samsung and T-Mobile a few years ago on a similar scheme, but on a much smaller scale, e.g. Galaxy S10e in Holland. It has also worked with KPMG, the Dutch government and Expereo, but this Vodafone deal is its largest to date. It promises to recycle at least 1 million old cell phones every year.

“How to make electronic waste reduction commercially attractive to people?” asks Joost de Kluijver, CTL’s director. “We want to get commercial people interested in sustainability.”

De Kluijver is convinced that the way to better recycling is to build a business case that can drive formal collection, create demand for more e-waste to be collected and fund local plans. It is a pragmatic approach. There is also hope that Vodafone will benefit from this program by picking up and retaining more customers, proving to other major technology brands that people are interested in how e-waste is handled.

In addition to the program with CTL, Vodafone also announces its GigaGreen Re-Trade program, which aims to get old smartphones out of the drawers (an estimated 200 million of them in Germany alone) and back into circulation by making it quick and easy for people to swap them in. You answer a few questions, and Vodafone’s software analyzes your phone to offer a trade-in price and free shipping.

What’s going on

While it’s better than doing nothing, this kind of waste compensation scheme raises some issues and potential greenwashing issues. That’s what the people at iFixit say Recycling should be the last resort. Even when phones are recycled properly using the latest techniques, what can actually be recycled is very limited. Ideally, phones should be refurbished repeatedly before being reused.

The iFixit team also raised concerns about the environmental costs of transportation. Many countries lack the infrastructure and expertise to recycle locally. CTL sends the units it collects to recycling plants in Europe, although it claims that the climate balance is positive and it plans to support the construction of recycling infrastructure directly in developing countries. But for CTL and others e.g. World loopSending e-waste to Europe is the lesser of two evils when the alternative is informal recycling or landfill.

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