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Updated: May 9, 2011 02:14 IST

Mobile phone recycling yet to catch up

Liffy Thomas
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With recycling electronic goods at a nascent stage, old mobile phones are resold at throwaway prices at shops like this one on Richie Street. Photo: S.S. Kumar.
With recycling electronic goods at a nascent stage, old mobile phones are resold at throwaway prices at shops like this one on Richie Street. Photo: S.S. Kumar.

With cellular phones becoming more affordable, there seems to be few barriers to having one or more handsets. But, what do you with your old handsets in a market that is constantly being swamped by phones with new features?

Awareness that old and unused electronic goods, including your handsets, can be recycled is limited among most households.

Nokia's ‘Take Back' campaign, launched in 2009, is a programme aimed at raising awareness. Here, customers can drop their old handsets and accessories at any of the recycling bins set up across Nokia Priority Dealers and Nokia Care Centres.

“In the last quarter we collected over 20,000 handsets in the southern region. The 13 outlets of Nokia Care Centre in Chennai would have received about 10,000 handsets,” said an official.

To encourage customers to drop their unused handsets for a cause, Nokia outlets also give away pen sets for every piece dropped and eco-friendly pencils for a charger, added the official.

“Premium product”

On why mobile recycling has not caught up much in the city, Prabhu Srinivasan, Country Manager, Sims Trishyiraya Recycling, a Chennai-based e-Waste recycling company, says cell phone is still a premium product and not many would part with it easily like other electronic goods.

It also has a resale value in the flea market. Even mobile showrooms agree that a user would rather give it to somebody in the family than exchange where the return is less.

“Unlike the car market where you get a fixed price, the value of a handset depends on the buyer-seller interaction. Any branded mobile depreciates by 50 to 75 per cent after a year, while Chinese handsets have no resale value,” says V. Rajagopalan, COO, UniverCell.


Mobile recycling is still at a nascent stage in the city. But if one is particular that the handset does not go into the landfill or pollute the water bodies, recycling consultants have some advice.

“It is important to ensure that you are giving away your eWaste to the right person as a majority of the players handling such waste are from the unorganised sector,” says Mr. Srinivasan. “An authorised recycle agent should have a licence from the Pollution Control Board and also from the Ministry of Environment and Forest and he or she should be able to convince you that the hazards caused by e-Waste will be managed,” he adds.

Most of the retail outlets on Ritchie Street have stopped accepting old mobile phones at a price as well exchanging old mobile phone for new.

Sales representatives at these shops say that it has increasingly become risky to take a second hand set as they would not know if the piece was stolen. A few other shops that allow exchanging an old set for a new ask for the bill receipt of the mobile from the customer.


Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012

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