New Delhi: When the world’s leading handset maker Nokia Oyj surveyed 6,500 people in 13 countries last year, it found that only 3% mobile phone users recycled their phones.
Globally, half of those surveyed did not even know mobile phones could be recycled; India was the worst offender with only 17% awareness, followed by Indonesia at 29%. Awareness was highest in the UK at 80%, and 66% in Finland and Sweden.
Give and take: The Take Back campaign will go national in six-nine months.
With nearly 124 million mobile phones sold in India in the last calendar year alone, around 24% more than in the previous year, and an average phone replacement cycle of 24-30 months, the estimated number of unused phones that were likely not being recycled led handset manufacturer Nokia India Pvt. Ltd to launch the Take Back campaign in the country.
“If people no longer need their mobile devices or accessories, they can simply drop their old handsets into (one of the) 1,300 bins placed at Nokia care centres and Nokia priority dealers across the country,” says Pranshu Singhal, India environmental manager for Nokia India. And for every handset deposited in the bins, Nokia will plant a tree, adds Ambrish Bakaya, director of corporate affairs at the company. “The handsets can be of any make or brand and in any condition,” he adds.
The company’s pilot awareness campaign was conducted over 45 days, from 1 January to 15 February, in New Delhi, Gurgaon, Ludhiana and Bangalore. “We have so far collected over three tonnes of e-waste, including 68,000 pieces of old devices and accessories. This includes 10,000 phones, 10,000 batteries, 32,000 chargers and 16,000 headsets, body covers and other accessories,” says Bakaya. “Material is still coming in as the bins will remain a permanent fixture.”
To plant trees, the company has tied up with Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu-based non-governmental organization Ahimsa. “So far...1,000 trees have already been planted,” says Singhal.
According to the survey, 44% of unused handsets are simply stored in homes and never used. Others give their mobiles another life in different ways, say, by passing on their old phones to friends or family, or by selling their used devices. Nokia plans to make this campaign national in the next six-nine months.
Every week, the material deposited in these bins is collected and dropped off at material centres where it is sorted. The material to be recycled is then sent to globally authorized recycling centres, where they are turned into useful objects such as park benches and utensils, explains Bakaya. The facilities are also audited to make sure there is no leakage and that everything sent to the centre is recycled, he adds.
The mobile phone company has also started an SMS-based application with a short code. Singhal explains that a consumer just has to SMS “Green” to the short code, and he or she gets access to data such as where the nearest care centre or priority dealer with a collection bin is located and how to get there.
Nokia also has a software-based service, called Eco Zone, which gives Nokia users access to information about environmental organizations, communities, applications and movements on Nokia mobile phones. At present, the service offers wildlife wallpapers and videos from the World Wide Fund for Nature as well as links to green tips and eco communities.
The Eco Zone service also gives users access to the We:offset application. This application allows mobile phone users to identify their carbon emissions and offset them. By purchasing the so-called carbon offsets, people can take responsibility for the carbon emissions their activities generate and also contribute funds towards projects that help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These projects typically focus on research and development of energy-efficient appliances as well as alternative fuels that in turn help absorb, reduce or avoid an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases being released elsewhere.
“For example, We:offset allows a mobile user to identify their carbon emissions on an aeroplane trip from one place to another and then act on it,” Singhal says. So far, the service is available in 46 languages, he adds.