Czechs have 12 million old mobile phones at home

Our mobile phone is often full of personal memories, and even if we get a new model, we usually can’t get rid of the old one. According to a survey by Remobil, the Czechs have 12 million old mobile phones in their drawers at home. Only a minimal number of them are still being recycled.

“We also keep older devices in reserve if we need a replacement phone. Another reason is that we don’t know what to do with it,” Martin Orgoník, T-Mobile’s director of external relations and sustainability, said.

“We are also concerned about misusing sensitive data on the phone. This concern often stems from the fact that we don’t know what happens to the phone after we take it to the place designated for that purpose,” Orgoník said.

A new device is every three years.

“We know from experience that many people keep their mobile phones because they believe they are still worth something and someone will still be able to use them. However, the reality is that these devices are often no longer usable due to defects, and the younger generation usually begs for new models anyway. The reason for this may also be simple nostalgia,” Vodafone spokesperson Charlota Dědková said.

Mobile phones contain a large number of personal memories, also in the form of SMS messages, videos, and photos. But people also keep several generations of devices, including push-button ones.

The first mobile phones were sold in 1991 when the then-operator Eurotel launched the NMT network.

Czechs change their mobile phones very often. “According to our estimates, it is about every three to 3.5 years,” Miloš Polák from Remobil, which specializes in mobile phone recycling, said.

About 8,500 phones are sold every day in the Czech Republic, with the average price of one sold unit being CZK 8,800.

According to data from the Czech Statistical Office (CSO), 98.8 percent of Czechs in every age category over 16 own a mobile phone, with the smallest share (almost 93 percent) belonging to people who have reached the age of 75.

“It is more interesting to see the differences in smartphone ownership. While more than 99 percent of Czechs aged 16 to 24 own a smartphone, the ratio stops at 14.5 percent for seniors,” pointed out Tomas Odstrčil, an analyst at Europe in Data Journalism Project.

They can be recycled

.But the need for many people, especially young people, to have a modern smartphone at all times puts a strain on the environment. Every person in the Czech Republic has up to 15.7 kilograms of electronic waste per year, and mobile devices account for more than a tenth of that. End-of-life phones can be recycled, either by electronics retailers or operators.

However, Czechs hardly use this option at all. According to T-Mobile, less than one percent of phones sold to operators are returned for recycling. “We intend to focus more on this problem and raise awareness about what to do with the device after it has reached the end of its life,” Orgoník said. He added that T-Mobile had prepared an awareness campaign called Zrecyklujtel.

According to Deutsche Telekom data, this is not just a problem in the Czech Republic. Collecting unused equipment is a habit in all 36 countries where the company operates.

Mobile phones are one of the essential components of electronic waste, the global volume of which, according to data from 2019, amounts to 53.6 billion kilograms of material that could be recycled and reused. “In reality, however, only 17 percent of discarded electronics go through this process,” Orgonik added.

According to him, each Czech accounts for 15.7 kilograms of electronic waste annually. In a year, the Czech Republic produces about 11 kilotons of electronic waste from phones and small IT devices, including navigation devices, calculators, routers, and printers.

Huge reserves

“Awareness is greater, but we still have huge societal reserves on this topic. In addition to reducing our ecological footprint, we are focusing on spreading awareness and motivating customers to recycle their end-of-life devices or offer them for reuse,” Dědková told Právo.

Vodafone provided 128,086 electronic equipment for reuse or recycling in the 2021/2022 business year.

“People have been able to return end-of-life electrical equipment in our stores since 2005. We then invest the money from recycling in Vodafone Foundation projects that support technologies with a positive social impact, such as the Záchranka, Echo, or Bright Sky apps,” Dědková added.