Mobile phone recycling gets underway

Swedish and UK pilot schemes aim to influence EU product takeback policy

A pilot scheme to collect and recycle used mobile phones has started in Sweden. Five companies are funding the six-month project launched yesterday in Stockholm, together with a similar one launched in the UK two weeks ago.

Swedish coordinator, Mats Pellback Scharp, told ENDS Daily that the scheme is an "experiment" to evaluate whether product "takeback" can work for mobile phones, and if so how. "We don't yet know the cost, which will depend on how many phones come back, nor whether we have the right method of getting phones back from the public."

The schemes are organised and funded by Alcatel, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and Panasonic, under the umbrella of Ectel, the EU association of the telecommunications and professional electronics industry.

The Swedish scheme is to operate across the whole mobile phone market. All 1,500 independent mobile phone retailers in the country are being encouraged to offer takeback facilities. According to Mr Pellback Scharp, the scheme has been well received. "All the outlets we have talked to have said they are interested in participating. The three telephone companies have also promised to help, and will send messages about the scheme with customer invoices."

By running the schemes, the companies hope to inform and influence any future EU product takeback requirements. "We expect that, since the EU asked for our pilot results, our studies will be used as inputs to any directive the European Commission might write," says Mr Pellback Scharp. The Commission is currently awaiting the results of a consultants study on product takeback in the electronics sector.

According to Ectel Secretary General I.B. Gronvald, the industry is not opposed to a legal requirement for product takeback, "provided that the financial responsibilities are shared equitably". What the industry does want is harmonisation at EU level. "It is very important that we have the same type of laws over Europe," says Mr Pellback Scharp.

Follow Up:
ReturTelfoni (Project Return Telephone), tel: +46 8 404 3873, Ectel, tel: +32 2 510 2434.

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