Telcos in drive to recycle counterfeit phones


Image: By BiztechAfrica
Telcos in drive to recycle counterfeit phones

By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya

As Kenya gears for the switching off of counterfeit mobile phones, the biting question has been on how to handle the anticipated surge in electronic-waste (e-waste). 

To tame the e-waste menace, mobile phone handset manufacturer Nokia has partnered with local mobile service providers and retail outlets to collect and recycle counterfeit phones, ahead of the planned switch-off  by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).

The company, which already has several collection points at its customer care centres, has partnered with Safaricom, Airtel, Nakumatt, Naivas, Phonelink, and Tuskys to ensure an additional 100 collection points are set up across the country, making it easier for consumers to dispose of fake phones.

Ahead of the CCK’s planned switch-off at the end of September 2012, there has been mounting concern amongst Kenyan NGOs, environmental agencies and consumers as to what will happen to these devices once they are discarded.

The number of counterfeit handsets in use around the country is estimated at over two million, and it is feared that once switched off the handsets will end up in landfills, contributing to the growing e-waste threat in the country.

Rresearch conducted by Nokia in late 2011 indicated that only 14% of Kenyans were aware that mobile phones could be recycled, and only 2% were actively recycling these devices.

“Consumers in Kenya, like in many countries across the globe, are unaware of the environmental benefits of recycling their broken or unwanted mobile phones,” says Bruce Howe, General Manager for Nokia East Africa.

"The reality is that mobile phones contain many valuable and useful materials that can be recycled, including precious metals and plastics. In fact, for every one million phones recycled, it is possible to recover nearly 35kg of gold and 350kg of silver, which can be re-used in the production of future electronic goods,” he said.

With over 6,000 collection points in about 100 countries, Howe says Nokia runs the largest mobile phone recycling programme in the world.

“The company’s recycling program generates no revenue for the company, but is an important part of its overall sustainability initiatives. As part of this program Nokia collects and recycles handsets and mobile phone accessories, including counterfeit ones and those of other manufacturers,” he said.

“We have the capability to manage a recycling program of this nature and to ensure that these phones are broken down and recycled to the highest quality standards. In addition to the benefit from re-using the materials, this also greatly reduces the need for virgin minerals and reduces carbon emissions,” adds Howe.

 “If all the people currently using mobile phones recycled just one unused phone at the end of its life, together we could save nearly 370,000 tonnes of raw materials and reduce greenhouse gases to the same effect as taking 6 million cars off the road”.

Nokia is also working with the Anti-Counterfeits Authority (ACA), National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), as well as local operators to encourage consumers to adopt a recycling mentality.

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