How to make money from WEEE

James Murray at the Green Business News blog from IT Week (UK) provides an example of a mobile recycling company called Fonebak which is taking advantage of the new WEEE regulations to create a new business.

Under a scheme operated by mobile phone disposal specialist Fonebak and supported by leading mobile manufacturers, operators and retailers such as Vodafone, Orange, O2, Dixons, PC World and Virgin, firms can dispose of their unwanted mobile phones and attachments through a WEEE-compliant channel and get cash in return.

Firms signing up to the scheme receive either free post bags to send unwanted mobiles to Fonebak’s recycling facilities, or securely-sealed plastic boxes which they can fill with 40 to 50 phones ahead of collection.

According to Sarah Band of Fonebak the company then “sorts the phones, tests them, recycles the materials from those that don’t work and refurbishes those that are working, and remarkets them in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa”.

This approach not only provides affordable mobile phones to developing world economies, but also generates revenue from the sale of both refurbished phones and the components and precious metals harvested from recycled handsets. “Plastics in phones are melted down and used in saucepans, traffic cones and buckets,” she explained. “While Gold, copper and the like is taken out and sold on commodity markets.”

We already know that “waste equals food”. Food equals money. In the meantime, we can make a difference to the environment and the community.


6 thoughts on “How to make money from WEEE

  1. What happens to the refurbished phones once they are finished in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia? Landfill? Ditch beside the road?

  2. Yes, by exporting the second hand phones they are just dumping it into the developing and under developed countries, where it is eventually dumped on the road side.

    Going with the prices of hand phones in the developing countries, i think the hand phones with are cheaper now a days and a middle class fellow can afford to buy a new one. And a poor man, who cannot afford that price does not find any need to have a hand phone with him.

    I like the policy of the company to recycle the old phones and giving incentives to those who give the products back for recycling. But the policy of exporting the second phones to developing countries sounds fishy or misleading. Wrong people can take advantage of this to make money or earn more by dumping it in the developing countries, which rewards them more than by recycling.

  3. Rob:

    Yes, you do have a point there. I guess another intervention is needed however, there are only a limited number of cycles current metals and products can go through.

    This is definitely not the best sustainable model but its a start.


  4. Leela:

    Why do you see this as dumping?

    Consider automobiles. If you buy a good used car in Africa, whether it is from the same country, neighbouring country or some developed country, it would be good for the person to have a cheap car. Car’s even though they pollute do provide mobility and independence to a person.

    In the same sense, a refurbished mobile phone is a good thing. It provides a second life to the phone and for the consumer in the developing country a cheaper alternative.

    As Rob suggests, what happens after that is still a problem. However, we have taken one step forward.

    Unless we see how this company performs in the coming years we cannot be sure if it is dumping or not.


  5. Unless regulations are stringent nothing will work and this game of III world country and eventually Antartica where you will find them floating.

    Will we wake up then? The company mission is laudable but is it monitorable?

    Education on Environment, Regulation, Implementation are the keys to achieve success.

  6. basel action network is the rule of thum for overseas shipping
    they have world news on the environment on their web site

    we here in Canada are legislating weee directives and a WEEE Program Plan is being presented to the minister of environment in march 2008

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