Do Smartphones Go to Heaven when they Die?

Above: Daniel Rotman (co-facilitator of the Master Recycler program in Vancouver) making the very first cellphone donation to Ethical Phones4Good. Thank you Daniel!

According to research published earlier this year by the IT research firm, Garter ( globally we sell about 400 Million phones...a quarter. This means annually the numbers are racking up to about 2.5 Billion devices. 

Given that almost half the world’s population does not have a smartphone (yet) I was less impressed by the billions in revenue generated by these sales and more interested in where do all these devices go. The average cycle time for a smart device is down to 19 months. If you are like me, one smartphone is more than enough and double fisting smartphones seems like overkill. 

So where do the billions of phones that have been replaced every year end up?

A small percentage are properly recycled through approved programs with conscientious recycling firms, another small percentage are surreptitiously thrown away but much of the sales of smartphones sold in the last 8 years are still missing in action. For most people out of sight is out of mind and junk drawers everywhere are overflowing with old, battered, but often useable devices.

Not by everyone though. 

Recently I gave a presentation to the Master Recycler Vancouver program (co-facilitated by the capable Daniel Rotman). Daniel not only talks the talk, he takes action. In this case, it was donating the very first cellphone to Ethical Phones4Good Society (a registered not for profit that changes the lives of people by providing them useable mobile devices). By the time I left the building I had a box of used devices that other participants in the Master Recycler Vancouver program had donated as well.

Ethical Phones4Good has set a target of collecting, wiping the data from, and then delivering one million mobiledevices. If the example set by Daniel and the Master Recycler program participants is anything to go by, we might achieve our goal sooner than we think.

It is past midnight, do you know where you old smartphone is?

Article Written by Peter Holgate
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