Consumers tell phone manufacturers to get smart about recycling

Message to mobile phone manufacturers: Take responsibility for recycling old smartphones and make new mobiles more easily repairable.

That message arose from a survey commissioned by Greenpeace East Asia and conducted in six countries.

Consumers said cellphone manufacturers should be responsible for providing people with the means to recycle phones. Four in five people also said it is important to be able to repair damaged smartphones.

Cellphones are among the most frequently replaced small electronic products.

A report from United Nations University showed that mobile phones, personal computers and other small electronics generated about 3 million metric tons of e-waste in 2014. This massive waste of resources is also a source of contamination from hazardous chemicals.

“The humble smartphone puts enormous strain on our environment from the moment they are produced … to the moment they are disposed of in huge e-waste sites,” said Chih An Lee of Greenpeace East Asia in a press release.

Key findings from the Greenpeace survey:

• Chinese (66 percent) and South Korean respondents (64 percent) are more likely to have had their phones repaired, compared to those in the United States (28 percent) and Germany (23 percent).

• Nearly half surveyed believe cellphone manufacturers should be held the most responsible for making recycling accessible. This sentiment was strongest in Germany (61 percent).

• Four in five respondents consider it important that a new smartphone is not produced using hazardous chemicals.

• The same number believe it is important for a new smartphone to be easily repaired if damaged. This rises to as high as 95 percent in China, 94 percent in Mexico and 92 percent in South Korea.

The most common reason for replacing a phone? Consumers said it’s the desire for a more up-to-date device. And since that desire shows no sign of flagging, more environmentally sound processes must be developed.

“We believe true innovation means gadgets designed to last, to be repaired and recycled,” Lee said.