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What happens to phones when they're recycled?

Guess who's not happy?

Not every company is thrilled with this. Sony Ericsson's Head of Sustainability, Mats Pellbäck-Scharp, says the company is not in the business of refurbishment. "The refurbishment business for mobile phones has developed over the last decade and there are several unsolved issues in this area.

"For example, several companies working in this business are not taking appropriate care given the risks related to batteries and chargers, using non-approved refurbishment parts or using brands and software illegally which can lead to a poor user experience."

Generally though, re-use is regarded as virtuous. You hand in your phone and it's sent off to help somebody in the developing world.

But there's more to it than that, as Iza Kruszewska, Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace International, explains: "Of course it's good to extend the life of products through repair or refurbishment, but there has to be a global process of take-back or the third or fourth-hand phones will still end up in landfill."

She applauds companies such as Nokia and Motorola which provide take-back services across the globe including Africa and Latin America. However, even though Greenpeace rates Nokia as the greenest of global electronic companies in its quarterly Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics it still only recycles around 3-5 per cent of its handsets. The rest presumably are either gathering dust in drawers or are leaking toxic waste into landfills across the globe.

So mobile recycling is up to us

It's really up to us as consumers to ensure the recycling figure is improved. If you need a spare phone why not hang on to the oldest and least valuable so you flog your most recent model for a decent return or just donate it to your favourite charity. The Recycling Factory, for instance, has raised £232,940 for the RSPCA since it launched in 2005.

The government-backed Recycling Appeal works with dozens of charities so you should find one that you'd like to support with your old phone. It also provides information on how to start an appeal for your own local charity collecting phones and printer cartridges. The UK's biggest phone recycling scheme is fones4schools.

The even greener alternative to recycling seems almost unthinkable. It's to hang on to your current phone for more than the usual 12 months! Have you ever thought: why is it that jeans and leather jackets get more character as they get older while phones just depreciate?