“There is an urgent need for mobile phone owners to understand how natural resources are being wasted” – Alumnus Awais Bilal on phone recycling

“Currently, there are few hundred million more mobiles than human beings which means billions of mobile phones are unused but have not reached any mobile phone recycling facility.”

Awais Bilal, MSc Advertising and Marketing, 2010

The mastermind behind Hull’s first mobile phone recycling company, Rapid Phone Buyer, is Awais Bilal who completed his MSc Advertising & Marketing from the University of Hull in 2010. He has been involved in several Tech related businesses mainly based in Hull, but also serving customers across the country. 

Following his recent profile in the Hull Daily Mail, he has contributed this article, telling us why we should be more worried about the environmental cost of discarding mobile phones.


“There is an urgent need for mobile phone owners to understand how natural resources are being wasted and how important it is to recycle unused gadgets”

Awais Bilal

Mobile phones have taken over the world by a storm in the last 10 years without a doubt. But the environmental implications of mobile phones are hardly addressed as they should have. One of the main reasons, according to Hull’s only mobile phone recycling company Rapid Phone Buyer, is the advancements in technology at a massive pace and the adoption of profit over environment policy by almost all major mobile phone manufacturers.

Currently, there are few hundred million more mobiles than human beings which means billions of mobile phones are unused but have not reached any mobile phone recycling facility. Every industry reaches the maturity state or saturation point and sales fall but it’s not the case with mobile phones. The Mobile phone industry reached saturation in the mid-2000s but the rapid advancements in technology changed the ball game and we have witnessed new mobile phones being launched almost every day creating demand of more mobile phones with advanced features.

Now we have reached the verge of a technological upgrade from 4G to 5G. It’s a break through which will without a doubt change our lives in the next coming years. This switch from 4G to 5G will make billions of mobile phones obsolete within the next few years. The majority of 4G mobile phones are expected to be discarded in the advanced economies in the Western hemisphere with next year or so. It can be projected that there would be some demand for 4G mobile phones in the third world countries for a while but the reality is, mobile phone operators have realised even in the developing and third world countries the profit associated with the telecommunications industry and once all networks start offering 5G which is expected to be at least 10 times better and faster than 4G the demand for old 4G mobiles will hit rock bottom. This will result in millions of mobile phones being discarded over the next few years when the 5G network becomes a norm. All the major networks in the UK including EE, O2 and Vodafone have already started upgrading their equipment and systems so that 5G can be offered.

The last time the world saw a technological upgrade was 2010 when networks received a generational upgrade from 3G to 4G. But there is a major difference between then and now. According to a report by the World Bank, the mobile phone subscription was 70 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 people which has now almost doubled. We can extract from this that there are almost twice the number of mobile phones in the market than in 2010.

The irony is the impacts of mass production of mobile phones on the environment are not addressed as they should. It’s expensive for recycling companies to extract metal and rare earth elements along with plastic and other materials out of a mobile phone and recycle them and in most cases, it’s difficult to generate profits by recycling mobile phones for metals and other materials. Hence the most cost-effective way to get unused mobile phones recycled is to get them refurbished and give them a new life. But that’s only possible when the mobile phone reaches a refurbishment facility before becoming obsolete.

There is an urgent need for mobile phone owners to understand how natural resources are being wasted and how important it is to recycle unused gadgets especially mobile phones rather than leaving them to collect dust and eventually head towards a landfill rather than a mobile phone recycling facility. There is no doubt that all major mobile phone manufacturers including Apple and Samsung run recycling programs but there is an urgent need to promote the recycling of mobile phones. According to a survey conducted by Rapid Phone Buyer, cash for mobile phones offered keeps on declining on a monthly bases and due to short product life cycle, mobile phone users don’t find it attractive to go through all the hassle of selling their old mobile phone. But its more about trying to keep the environment clean and making an effort to leave it in the same state as our forefathers left it for us rather than wasting its natural resources without knowing the implications.  

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