More than five billion of the estimated 16 billion cellphones in existence worldwide will likely be thrown away or destroyed by 2022, experts said Thursday, calling for more recycling of the hazardous materials they contain.
Stacked on top of each other, many unused phones will be thrown away, according to the research consortium WEEE. Despite containing precious metals gold, copper, silver, palladium and other recyclable components, almost all of these devices will be discarded or incinerated, causing significant harm to health and the environment.
"Smartphones are one of the electronic products that concern us the most", said Pascal Leroy, Director General of the WEEE Forum, a non-profit association representing forty-six producer responsibility organizations. "If we don't recycle the rare materials they contain, we will have to extract them again from countries like China or the Congo," Leroy told AFP.
Many of the five billion end-of-life phones will be hoarded rather than thrown in the trash, according to a survey conducted in six European countries between June and September 2022. That's because many people leave their phones behind. in drawers, rather than repairing or recycling them. Up to five kilograms of electronic devices per person are currently accumulated in an average European family, according to the report.
According to the new findings, 46% of the 8.775 households surveyed cited potential future use as the main reason for hoarding electrical and electronic equipment.
Another 15% store their gadgets with the intention of selling or giving them away, while 13% keep them for "sentimental value".
"People tend not to realize that all these seemingly insignificant objects have great value and all together globally represent huge volumes," said Pascal Leroy.
“But e-waste will never be collected voluntarily because of the high cost. That is why a new legislation is necessary."