Our current business model encourages the purchase of new telephones. At the end of the contract period, we offer customers a new contract with a new mobile phone. New telephones boost the demand for new services and therefore lead to new revenues. Through these revenues Vodafone is able to recoup the costs of investments in the network and in this way is able to continue to meet changing consumer requirements.
This presents a challenge for the company. On the one hand we want to continue to serve our customers in the best way possible by providing the latest services. On the other hand, however, this creates extra demand for mobile phones and therefore leads to an increase in the number of used telephones that are still fully functional.
Better plan needed for the reuse of telephones
Discussions with our stakeholders reveal that they view the collection of telephones as a shared responsibility between the manufacturer, seller (i.e. Vodafone) and end user.
There is no doubt that Vodafone should regard used telephones as valuable waste that can be reused. As a telecom company we need to think about smart ways to incorporate the reuse of telephones into our service to an even greater extent.
Electronic waste in developing countries
In addition to the challenge of reducing the number of unused telephones, the reuse of telephones also presents a challenge. The majority of the telephones that we collect are sold on and reused in developing countries. This is a good thing, as it helps make mobile telephony possible in an affordable way in places like Africa.
However, because the handset is sold on, often via middlemen, we do not know what happens once the device is discarded at the end of its second life. Since many developing countries still do not have a good recycling system in place, it is highly likely that a discarded handset will end up on the large pile of electronic waste that is presenting a major problem in countries such as China, India and Ghana. The question is what role can and should Vodafone play here?
At international level Vodafone is a member of the e-Waste working group of the EICC/GeSi, the alliance of companies that manufacture ICT and electronics. Within this working group we are examining, together with organisations including the UN, how the environmental impact of electronic waste can be reduced in developing countries. In spite of the fact that at present there are scarcely any mobile phones to be found in the huge mountains of electronic waste, we are taking our responsibility seriously.
Help us collecting phones
Do you still have a used mobile phone lying in a drawer? You can hand this in at a Vodafone shop or go to www.vodafone.nl/verkoopjetelefoon.