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Being smart about smartphones

Phone Stalls at Broadway and 34th Street. 05/1973

Do you hand onto your old phones long after everybody else has moved on? Photographer: Calonius, Erik

Call me a hoarder if you wish, but I’ve never been one to easily part with a mobile phone. Sure, I love getting new ones… The problem is more to do with ditching the old phone.

And I don’t think I’m the only one! A few years ago a colleague brought a Jack & Jill Foundation collection box into work, but only a handful of phones were collected despite the best intentions of the 30-strong workforce.

In November, I heard (possibly mis-heard!) that there would be 1.2 million smartphones in Ireland at Christmas 2010. According to mobile research findings released by Return2Sender in October 2010, over 600,000 Irish adults already own a smartphone, with the potential to grow the market to over a million users by next spring. Ownership, it says, “is heavily skewed towards males, 16-34 year olds, and those from professional and white collar worker backgrounds.”

With Christmas having just passed, there’s bound to be many, many abandoned phones around Ireland.  So what can you do with them? I put the question to Twitter: “Can anyone tell me of any charities they know of that accept phones for recycling?” The response was almost unanimous: the Jack & Jill Foundation. However, from what I can see that seems to be a recycling initiative via schools only. Fine if you’ve kids in a school involved, not so straightforward if you don’t. The carrot at the end of the stick for schools to get involved is that they can get school equipment in exchange for a certain amount of phones collected.

There are plenty of other options on the island of Ireland, and I thought there would be no harm in sharing information on where you can offload your old phone, while at the same time giving something back.

First off, I have to mention that you can donate an old iPhone or iPod Touch so that children with autism can use the Grace App to communicate exactly what they want. Go straight to GraceApp.com or the I Want My iPhone for  Autism page on MyCharity.ie to find out about donating your old iPhone/iPod Touch.

Bee for Battens is a charity that I became aware of through their tweets during the Content is King conference in Dublin in November and they’re active and friendly on Twitter if you’d like to get to know them better. You can send phones to Bee for Battens using Freepost (all the details are on BeeforBattens.org). If you’ve difficulty getting the phone into an envelope and the envelope from your desk to the post office, just collect together more than 10 phones and the charity will arrange collection.

In late 2010, Trócaire launched a programme that targets the recycling of 500,000 mobile phones over three years. This is with Kavanagh Environmental, a company specialising in fundraising through recycling. Apparently, ‘Mobile Phone Appeal’ bags have been distributed to every household in the country.

Another charity that I’m told accepts donations of mobile phones is the Hope Foundation.

The thing to remember of course is that just because you switch a sim card or removable memory card into your fancy new phone, doesn’t mean the phone is ready to recycle straight away. Take the time to delete your personal data – your text messages, your contacts and any photos or videos remaining on the memory, and that’s even if you’re recycling it by passing on your old handset to a friend.

Friends aside, a further search online found that there seems to be three ways of recycling used mobile phones. These are:

  1. Donating the phones to charities, in order to raise funds. Most charities seem to accept donations.
  2. Raising funds for school facilities through recycling collections in schools.
  3. Making some cash for yourself by sending a phone to a company who will give you money in return.

Please add a comment if you’d like to include details of a mobile phone recycling scheme that deserves to be highlighted.