Turnover on smartphones is high in the world. Therefore, we wanted to systematically explore commercially viable solutions to (in a circular manner) re-use functional functionality of smartphones that would otherwise have gone to material recycling. Through this approach, smartphones and its components can be moved upwards in the waste hierarchy.
In the global market, just over 1.5 billion smartphones were sold in 2017 and in Sweden, annual sales have been around 3.7–3.9 million units in recent years. There are figures that show that, from a global perspective, an average user changes their smartphone every 18 months. This, while smartphones in the slightly higher segment (think Samsung, Sony, iPhone etc.) comes with a performance that fixes 3.5–4.7 years of use before it deteriorates significantly. There is something about the equation that doesn’t really go together. Furthermore, this means that many of those smartphones that are currently collected and handled according to current regulations, or remain unused in people’s homes, may contain advanced functionality in the form of powerful processors and memories, batteries, sensors such as microphone, camera, light – and rangefinders, gyro, compass, accelerometer and GPS. Of course, this must be things that can be used in other ways even when a user has chosen to dispose of their smartphone? We thought of course, and got the opportunity to start a project to make this a reality.
What we did to face the challenge?
The project aimed to systematically explore commercially viable solutions to (in a circular manner) re-use functional functionality of smartphones that would otherwise have gone to material recycling. Through this approach, smartphones and its components can be moved upwards in the waste hierarchy. To succeed well with the task, the project gathered and involved actors in sustainability, production technology and product design, an international consumer electronics manufacturer, a global trader for used electronics components and a large Nordic telecom operator.
Partner and financier
The project is funded by Vinnova.
Projects were carried out during the period October 2017 to October 2018.
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