Home » GSMA publishes vision for a ‘circular economy’ of mobile devices, Sustainability

GSMA publishes vision for a ‘circular economy’ of mobile devices, Sustainability

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LONDON: Heading into COP27, the GSMA unveiled a new long-term vision for how the mobile industry can make its supply and production chains for mobile devices more circular.

GSMA’s Strategy Paper on the Circular Economy: Mobile Devices presents a vision for the industry that:

  • devices with the longest possible lifespan,
  • 100% recyclable and made from recycled materials,
  • 100% renewable energy,
  • Where devices do not become waste

This ambition is underpinned by a newly developed “circularity model” for the mobile industry. Building on his two overarching concepts of ‘maximizing longevity’, the model lays out the principles that operators should consider when aiming to build circular his supply and manufacturing chains by 2050. increase. ” and “Zero Waste”.

Stephen Moore, Head of Climate Action for the GSMA and Head of Mobile Sector for UN Climate Champions, said: Stay connected. By setting a new vision for systemic change in the sector, the mobile industry is laying the groundwork to reduce material waste and extend device life. “

Erik Wottrich, Head of Sustainability at Tele2, who led the development of the strategy document, said: This is a big step forward for us as an industry, but we still have a lot of work to do. Tele2 is proud to have led the preparation of the strategy document, as Tele2 is committed to promoting a circular economy by developing new customer-facing services based on a circular business model. / Goals based on value chain science.

Environmental impact

Mobile phones play an integral and positive role in the lives of people around the world, connecting us with our loved ones, enabling digital inclusion and driving economic progress around the world. However, they also have both positive and negative environmental impacts throughout their life cycle. Mobile phones help reduce carbon emissions by reducing the need to travel, but they also cause environmental impact of their own.

During the life cycle of a mobile phone, the majority of environmental impacts (around 80%) occur during the manufacturing stage. Today, the average smartphone is made from over 50 different materials, including plastics, ceramics, rare metals, copper, and silicon. Mining of these materials can have negative environmental and social impacts. Manufacturing and assembly also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use.

Currently, approximately 2 billion mobile phones are sold annually and over 90% of the world’s population owns a mobile phone.[1] However, currently 85% of mobile phones are not formally recycled, limiting the lifecycle of the materials used to manufacture mobile phones and increasing access to affordable repurposed devices. with fewer opportunities to improve digital inclusion.[2]

Extending the lifespan of all smartphones in the world by one year could save up to 21.4 million tons of CO2 emissions per year by 2030.

A GSMA paper highlights the importance of engaging all elements of the supply chain to incrementally change the cyclicality of the mobile device market. Everything has a role to play.

circulation model

The GSMA’s new ‘Circular Model’ revolves around the principles of ‘Maximize Lifespan’ and ‘Zero Waste’. Longevity is important to reduce the impact of device manufacturing.The average number of years of smartphone use is about 3 years[1]but have a technical lifespan of 4 to 7 years.[2] In terms of minimizing climate impact, the optimal lifespan for a mobile phone could be at least 25 years.[3].

optimistic sign

While the GSMA’s vision sets the course for the future towards true circularity, mobile operators are already making progress. Research shows that 11% of smartphones sold worldwide today are refurbished, and the market is growing.[4]

Consumers are also growing their interest in second-hand goods and sustainability in general. This means that devices are used longer and device recycling schemes are used more frequently.[5],[6]

Over the past seven years, the worldwide mobile phone replacement cycle has increased by 10 months, from 24 months in 2014 to 34 months in 2021.[7] The trend is expected to continue with the refurbished mobile device market projected to be worth over $140 billion by 2030, compared to $49.9 billion in 2020.[8]

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/786876/replacement-cycle-length-of-smartphones-worldwide/

[2] Miliute-Plepiene, J. & Youhanan, L. (2019). E-waste and Raw Materials: From Environmental Issues to Business Models. IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

[3] EEB. 2019. Coolproducts don’t cost the Earth – Full report. Brussels: EEB. & Miliute-Plepiene, J. & Youhanan, L. (2019). E-waste and Raw Materials: From Environmental Issues to Business Models. IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

[4] https://www.persistencemarketresearch.com/

[5] CapGemini 2021, Circular Economy for a Sustainable Future.

[6]https://www.simon-kucher.com/sites/default/files/studies/Simon-Kucher_Global_Sustainability_Study_2021.pdf

[7] https://www.statista.com/statistics/786876/replacement-cycle-length-of-smartphones-worldwide/

[8] https://www.persistencemarketresearch.com/mediarelease/global-refurbished-and-used-mobile-phones-market.asp

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