The European Council adopted a new law that will oblige mobile phone manufacturers, starting 2017 onwards, to market in the European Union products with batteries that can be easily replaced by anyone without the need for special tools or expertise.
The new legal provisions will put an end to a long period when smart mobile phones left the factory with built-in, sealed batteries, often glued to the glass back of the phone. For this reason, most owners of such phones used to have to either buy new phones when the battery had reached the end of its life cycle, sometimes even earlier than two years, or go to a specialist service to replace it, which was expensive and not always possible.
In addition to the practical and financial benefit to consumers, the new European rules will also help to build a sustainable circuit in the industry. Representatives of the RESPO WEEE Association explain why, from 2027, we will see a considerable reduction in waste electrical and electronic equipment, which pollutes the environment with hazardous chemical compounds.
“For more than a decade we have been facing the problem of smartphones whose batteries can only be replaced through complicated procedures in specialised services. That’s why most consumers have so far had to give up their phones and buy new ones once the battery was no longer working at its optimum capacity. So old phones were all too quickly becoming waste electrical and electronic equipment. Not being handed in for recycling, they often end up in household waste and in the environment, with high risks of pollution,” says Cristian Pocol, President of RESPO WEEE Association (www.respo.ro).
New EU regulations are forcing manufacturers to rethink the architecture of future mobile phone models so that their batteries can be easily removed and replaced by consumers.
“The decision will also help protect the environment. We will be able to use our mobile phone for many years by just changing the battery, we will reduce the carbon footprint generated by the manufacture of new phones, we will not generate so much hazardous waste and, in addition, we will simplify the recycling process, as phones with removable batteries are much easier to dismantle, thus facilitating the recycling of components and reducing the extraction of new chemical components,” continues Cristian Pocol.
5 changes for the better brought by the detachable battery phones
Once the new EU regulations are implemented, we will see a number of improvements in each consumer’s relationship with the environment, but also in the circular economy.
- The phones will have a longer life. When mobile phone performance drops, it’s often the battery, not the hardware, that’s to blame. If they had an easily replaceable battery, most consumers would insert a new one and continue using the product, instead of throwing the whole phone away, extending the life of the device and reducing the e-waste.
- Decrease in the amount of waste. When phones with hard-to-replace batteries break down, the whole device often ends up in landfills or recycling facilities.
- The environmental impact is reduced. Manufacturing a new smartphone requires mining, refining and processing raw materials, which consumes energy and natural resources. By extending the life of a phone after battery replacement, demand for new phones decreases, leading to energy and resource savings and a smaller carbon footprint.
- Simplified recycling. Phones with replaceable batteries are often easier to dismantle and recycle because the battery can be removed separately. This makes it easier to recycle materials and reduces the potential for hazardous substances to enter the environment and subsequently the human body.
- Encourages the habit of repair. Devices with replaceable components will be easier to repair. Once they can be dismantled more easily, the repair process will also be less costly. The habit of trying to repair a product before deciding to throw it away will spread.
Why today’s phones are dangerous for the environment
According to statistics released by the RESPO WEEE Association, more than 23 million used mobile phones are still in Romanians’ drawers, not yet offered for recycling. Unfortunately, they are at risk of being thrown in the rubbish or in nature, their chemical compounds polluting the environment, entering the soil and water and eventually reaching our bodies. Many of them have become waste precisely because their owners have stopped using them once the battery is no longer working, making them extremely difficult to replace.
“The phones with batteries that can’t be easily replaced are the ones most targeted to get such waste quickly because they are replaced with new phones once the battery is no longer functioning at normal parameters. A smartphone contains more than 70 items, mostly made of metal (45%), glass (32%), plastic (17%), precious metals such as gold, silver, copper or cobalt, as well as toxic substances that can seriously affect people’s health but can also contaminate the soil once they end up in landfills.
If we are able to just replace the battery, we’ll use them longer, we won’t have to buy new models. This will also reduce the pressure on new phone production to extract new resources. If we also offer them for recycling, once we don’t use them anymore, their components can be reused. With every 10,000 recycled mobile phones we avoid the extraction of 26 tons of gold ore and 29 tons of silver ore. By reducing mining, we are reducing greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions from the atmosphere. For example, extracting one kilogram of gold from mines produces 23 tons of CO2, 27 grams of mercury, 22 grams of arsenic and 2000 tonnes of waste,” says Cristian Pocol, President of RESPO Association.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment, in this case mobile phones, should not be thrown in the rubbish bin or kept in the home with other products, but should be taken personally to dedicated recycling centres/new product shops or handed in for collection to companies offering this service.
The RESPO WEEE Association provides free containers (boxes or containers of various sizes), which can be ordered by phone, at 0 800 800 21 or online, at https://respo.ro/en/weee-collection-box-request/ . Once delivered, these bins can be filled with the WEEE we wish to offer for recycling and transported to the collection centres in person, or you can order free collection by authorised companies by phone.