Users want longer-lasting, easier to repair mobiles, says Greenpeace

Survey shows consumers want greener handsets and think manufacturers should make recycling easier

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Users want longer-lasting, easier to repair mobiles, says Greenpeace Consumers would like to see handsets that last longer and are easier to repair, according to a survey conducted for Greenpeace.
By  Mark Sutton Published  August 15, 2016

A new survey commissioned by Greenpeace shows that consumers would like to see less new models of mobile phones released by manufacturers, and more handsets that are built to last longer and be more easily repaired.

Nearly half of all respondents believe that mobile phone manufacturers should be responsible for recycling and making environmentally friendly disposal more accessible.

Mobile phones are some of the most frequently replaced of all small electronics products. A United Nations University report in 2014 showed that up to 3 million metric tonnes of e-waste is generated from small IT products, such as mobile phones and personal computers. This represents a massive waste of resources and a source of contamination from hazardous chemicals.

“The humble smartphone puts enormous strain on our environment from the moment they are produced - often with hazardous chemicals - to the moment they are disposed of in huge e-waste sites,” said Chih An Lee, Global IT Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

“Over half of respondents across the countries surveyed agree that manufacturers are releasing too many new models, many designed to only last a few years. In fact, most users actually want their phones to be more easily dismantled, repaired and recycled.”

The study surveyed 1,000 people in each of China, Germany, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, and the US, to find out about mobile phone replacement and recycling habits.

As many as three quarters of respondents in each country felt that manufacturers release too many new models each year, while half would be willing to upgrade their handsets less often and 40% think network operators make it too easy to switch handsets as part of their service plans.

While better battery life was the most requested feature in handset design, nearly 90% of respondents also wanted a device that was “designed to last”, and four in five consumers also wanted to see phones that were easier to repair, and that used less hazardous materials in their construction.

Despite the professed desire for ‘greener’ phones, one third of respondents said they last changed handsets to get a “more up to date device”, while just under one third replaced a lost or broken handset.

Rates of repair of devices varied greatly between countries, with around two-thirds of Chinese or South Koreans reporting they have had devices repaired, compared to only one quarter of Germans or Americans.

Environmentally-friendly disposal practices also varied, with 57% of respondents in South Korea giving their handsets to specialised recycling companies, compared to only 11% in Germany. One third of Americans and one half of Russians believe their used mobiles end up in landfill sites, while only 4% of Koreans think this is the fate of their old phones.

“We believe true innovation means gadgets designed to last, to be repaired and recycled. It is time for tech leaders to rethink the way they make our electronics so that they are as innovative for our planet as they are for our lives,” said Lee.

“If tech brands want to lead us into the future, they need to move towards closed-loop production and embrace the circular economy; something that can be good for their profits, for people and for the planet.”

Greenpeace East Asia conducted the survey as part of its True Innovation campaign, which challenges the technology sector to embrace innovation to protect our environment and our future.

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