Friday, May 6, 2011

Save the planet, buy a phone made from recycled components?

Most of us have heard the environmental mantra "recycle, reuse, repurpose" many times already and, given the way that modern electronics have become "disposable", one must wonder how much of the mobile phones we throw away when upgrading, could be re-used.

Well I came across this very interesting piece about how mobile phones are being recycled down to a component-level in China.

It seems that when labour is cheap enough, it becomes economically viable to unsolder the tiny surface-mount devices from the circuit boards of discarded phones and clean them up for re-sale.

Clearly, Nokia's purpose in publishing this information was probably to dissuade potential customers from buying a "cheap Chinese" mobile instead of a more expensive Nokia-branded one -- but I wonder if that might not backfire a little.

In an era when conservation and recycling is a growing trend, perhaps there will soon be increased cache' associated with choosing to use consumer electronics which are comprised largely of recycled components.

Maybe we'll soon see a "Think of the Planet" brand of mobile phones which emphasize this as a selling feature -- who knows.

I recall, as a young lad, doing exactly what these Chinese "recyclers" are doing -- pawing over thrown out bits of electronic equipment, removing and re-using valuable components that I could not afford to buy brand-new. This tactic allowed me to stretch my tiny budget immensely and I really think it's a good, not a bad move.

What's more, with the move to ROHS-conformant lead-free solder, the days of these Chinese peasants being struck down with lead-poisoning should also be over -- perhaps.

The only concerns that Western manufacturers and distributors of components now have is that the "new" parts they're buying out of China may well be recycled and that could compromise yield-rates and reliability. Now, purchasers have to add the prospect of ending up with second-hand components to the dangers of finding themselves lumbered with a bunch of counterfeit products due to unscrupulous practices being engaged in by some Chinese sources.

Still, I'd favourable consider purchasing products that I knew were made with recycled components (so long as they had the normal warranty) -- how about you?

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