Upcycling of smartphones – so can life be extended on our mobile phones

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.

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.

The result was a multifunctional product that you can read more about here

Partner and financier

The project is funded by Vinnova.

Projects were carried out during the period October 2017 to October 2018.

Talk projects with us

Are you interested in learning more about this project? Do you have a similar challenge or idea?

Max Björkman

Contact me

Other projects

LinCS – Linking circularity metrics at product and society level

Circular economy is receiving increasing attention throughout the world. The European Commission says that it has no choice but to go for the transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative…

Recovery of drawers from refrigerated furniture

Refrigerators and freezers (refrigerators) usually contain a larger amount of plastic. A significant proportion of the plastic content consists of the drawers and shelf compartments of the cooling furniture. Before…

Collection system for electric car batteries

Sales of electric and charging hybrid cars have increased  extensive recent years, both globally and in Sweden. Common to these car types is that they all contain a battery for…

Repipe – Innovative recycling of pipes and profiles

In Sweden, large numbers of pipes are being installed every year in new buildings and during maintenance of both buildings…

Fistula catheters

Fistula catheters

Nordic Medcom AB develops and sells products in the medical areas of blood purification, vessel catheters, and systems…

Realize – Recycling of vehicles

The project Realize has the ambition to find strategies for a more resource-efficient recycling of vehicles and to increase the…

WEEE ID – Automated sorting of electronic waste

Automated sorting of electronic waste enables higher recycling rates

Waste in the form of electrical and electronic equipment (abbreviated WEEE)…

Remanence – Recycling of magnets

REMANENCE – Recycling of rare earth elements from permanent magnets in electronic waste

The future’s potentially limited access to rare…

GreenElec – Design for recycling

”Green” electronics intended to attain an efficient use of resources through designing and manufacturing electronics which enables a more efficient…