Rewards Needed to Boost Mobile Phone Recycling, Says Survey

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U.S. consumers want to help the environment by recycling mobile phones, but most need a reward to actually do it, according to ABI Research.

Thirty-eight percent of U.S. consumers claim to have recycled outdated mobile phones. Out of those, 70 percent donated their used phones to charity organizations and got a tax deduction, according to an ABI survey that polled 1,000 consumers. Only 5 percent returned their phone for recycling without any form extra incentive, it said.

Also, of the consumers who haven't recycled a mobile phone, 98 percent were prepared to do so if they received cash, store credit or a tax deduction, according to ABI.

U.S. consumers aren't the only ones who get more interested in recycling when rewards are involved, according to Nokia.

"We have noticed that [offering a reward] increases the chance of people bringing back their mobile," said Saara Tahvanainen , communications manager for sustainability at Nokia.

Nokia has, for example, offered customers service vouchers, cash back offers and the promise to plant a tree for every mobile phone returned, according to Tahvanainen.

"Even if the incentive is that we give money to charities interest increases," said Tahvanainen.

The number of phones that are recycled seems to be increasing. Last year only 8 percent had recycled a phone in the U.S., according to an unrelated study presented by Nokia in July 2008.

Increasing the number of recycled phones isn't just about offering rewards, making it as easy as possible for consumers is the most important thing, Tahvanainen said.

Mobile operators and mobile phone manufacturers are getting into recycling, and the goals they're setting for themselves are high.

Sprint aims to recycle 90 percent of the handsets it sells, but so far has only achieved a rate of about 30 percent, according to ABI.

Nokia's goal is to recycle one phone for every one it manufactures, according to Tahvanainen. Today, the Finnish phone manufacturer estimates it is recycling 5 million to 9 million phones per year, she said. During the third quarter this year Nokia sold 108.5 million phones.

However, even if many old phones still aren't recycled, that doesn't mean they end up in landfills. A lot of phones just end up in drawers, are used as spares or given away, Tahvanainen said.

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