Green mobile phones

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There are many million mobile phones in use across the planet. Some contain toxic chemicals, and many are disposed of in landfill. The rapid introduction of new models and the obsolescence of old models means that millions of phones are disposed of each year, which creates huge environmental impacts.


Many mobile phones end up as e-waste in landfills

  • Thousands of tons of electronic waste hit landfills each year as users upgrade to new mobile phones and discard the old ones.
  • There are already 11,000 tons of unused cellular phones in the United Kingdom that have not yet been disposed of.
  • Most of these phones will eventually be discarded, with highly toxic metals and other chemicals in them leaching into the earth.
  • An estimated 1 billion mobile phone handsets are sold each year
  • 1 million mobiles per day come from Nokia alone.
  • 100 million people upgrade to new phones each year in Europe alone, even though the average handset has a life of 5 years.
  • Many mobile phone service providers lure new customers by promising a free new handset for those who sign up.
  • While many companies offer to recycle used mobile phones for consumers, the vast majority of such phones are still thrown away.
  • The recycled handset market could be worth $3 billion by 2012, with recycled phone shipments numbering above 100 million.[1]

Green power for mobile phone networks

In addition, the energy required to develop and power mobile phone networks is significant.

The GSMA, a trade group representing more than 750 GSM mobile operators across 218 countries, has launched a plan to help mobile operators in developing markets go green.

In September 2008, the organization announced the Green Power for Mobile initiative, which will help the industry use renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and biofuels to power 118,000 new and existing mobile base stations in developing countries by 2012. The initiative is backed by 25 mobile operators and will provide expertise and guidelines for operators deploying low-energy base stations or base stations that use renewable energy.

The vast majority of mobile base stations in rural areas that are not powered by the regular electrical grid are powered by generators that use diesel fuel. If the GSMA can achieve its goal of powering 118,000 base stations with renewable fuel, the program will save up to 2.5 billion liters of diesel fuel per year and cut carbon emissions by 6.3 million tonnnes, the group said in its press release.

A comprehensive study conducted by the GSMA found that only 1,500 base stations worldwide are powered by renewable energy today. The group blames expensive equipment and lack of expertise for such low penetration. But as fuel prices rise, mobile operators will turn to greener technologies. In fact, the GSMA's research suggests that operators who go green could recoup their costs in about 24 months.

The GSMA has already been working with a few companies on renewable base station projects. For example, it's working with Digicel to use wind and solar energy to power 17 new base stations on the Pacific island of Vanuatu. It also worked with Ericsson to help Idea Cellular use waste cooking oil to help power more than 350 base stations in parts of India. The base stations run on a blend made up of 80 percent diesel fuel and 20 percent waste cooking oil.[2]

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External links


  1. Discarded Mobile Phones Create an Avalanche of Toxic E-Waste,, July 10, 2008
  2. Mobile trade group pushes green initiative Cnet news, September 19, 2008
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