Sporting a new mobile phone may be fashionable in these well-connected times, but the discarded old handsets could poison the environment, as a whopping 8,000 tonnes of cell phone waste is estimated to burden the earth by 2012.

As per a whitepaper by global consultancy Deloitte, there is a growing need to better manage the rising cell phone waste, as it is posing a threat to the environment.

Replacement sales predict that more cell phones would be retired every year with rapid changes in technology and product designs discouraging mobile repairs and increasing demand for new mobiles and disposal of old ones.

“With the absence of a proper recycle and reuse program, about 8,000 tonnes of toxic cell phone components are estimated to be dumped in landfills by 2012. The resulting contamination will have far reaching consequences for the environment and all living beings,” Deloitte Consulting India Regional Managing Director, Parag Saigaonkar told PTI.

The problem begins when retired handsets end up in landfill sites or if they are dumped illegally, leading to toxic substances seeping into the groundwater, making disposal of old cells a problem for the world, the report revealed.

“As India is one of the fastest growing markets in the world in terms of mobile phone subscribers, we need to be more aware of the threat, which these gadgets pose to the environment and strict government guidelines should be created to deal with it,” Saigaonkar added.

The Deloitte report stated that mobile phone waste globally is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of about nine per cent between 2008 and 2012, with more than 80 per cent of the cell phone waste being hazardous.

“Indian policymakers should also provide regulations in terms of curbing pollution of mobile phone waste and mandatory recycling of cell phones should be brought in to manage the burgeoning problem,” Saigaonkar said.

The main contributors to cell phone waste are those who upgrade and replace their handsets regularly.

About 65 per cent of subscribers in Asia, Europe and the Americas replace their cell phones at least once in two years. This means every 2 years, about 100 million cell phones reach landfills if they are not recycled or reused, it added.

Elaborating on the ways to minimise the growing cell phone waste, the report stated that recycling and refurbishing of used cell phones is necessary.

Refurbishing extends the lifetime of used phones and recycling reduces the need for the raw materials used to make new products. The inclusion of recycling or refurbishing would change the traditional view of the cell phone life cycle.

“In this new life cycle model, every stakeholder will have to play a role in reducing the environmental footprint of cell phones,” it added.

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