Almost 22 million unused mobile phones, stored in Romanian homes

Most Romanians do not want to part with old mobile phones that they no longer use and prefer to keep them, instead of taking them for recycling. This fact emerges from a study conducted by reBuy, an online store of used electronics in Germany, and which ranks Romania among the first countries out of the 27 analyzed, with a high number of unused mobile phones

The mobile phone has become one of the most used technologies today. However, it has come to generate increasing amounts of waste, by the simple fact that people replace it periodically, not necessarily because it would be damaged, but more in view of the fact that “it is no longer fashionable”. Thus, Romanians end up storing in their houses old mobile phones that they no longer use or even worse, they end up throwing them in the trash, instead of recycling them. Once in landfills, they become harmful to the environment due to the toxic chemicals they contain, such as lead and chromium.

WEEE collection boxes, provided by the Respo WEEE Association


In Romania, there are almost 22 million mobile phones that are unused and that are probably locked in drawers, according to the data from the study conducted by reBuy. This places our country on the 9th place, among the 27 countries analyzed (24 in Europe: Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, England, Portugal, Denmark, Austria, Romania, Slovenia, France, Italy, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Bulgaria, Latvia, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium, Hungary, Croatia, the Netherlands, Poland, plus Canada, the USA and New Zealand which have been added for an overview), and this reveals a fairly large number of unused and stored mobile phones, which do not take the path of recycling as normal.

Also, according to this ranking, it can be seen that the largest number of unused mobile phones, 223 million, belongs to the USA, followed by Germany, with 84.7 million and the United Kingdom, with 83.1 million. At the opposite pole are Slovenia, Latvia and Estonia, with 2.3 million, 1.7 million and 1.6 million telephone numbers, respectively. If the unused telephones in the 27 countries were recycled, the amount obtained from the extraction of the precious metals existing in this devices, such as gold, silver, palladium, platinum and copper would reach 1.9 billion euros, according to reBuy statistics.

It is essential to also follow the recycling and reuse rate related mobile phones in Romania, which was 79% during the last year, thus recording the lowest rate among all the countries subject to analysis.

“We want to sound the alarm not only on the potential value of used mobile phones that are in the homes of Romanians, but also on the existing benefits if all these were recycled or remanufactured. We hope that through our actions we can inform, educate and inspire people to think twice about how to eliminate unwanted electronics. And for this purpose, we provide Romanians with special boxes for the collection of electrical and electronic waste (WEEE) and which we send by courier. All you have to do is fill in a form on the association’s website, and the boxes will arrive at your home”, says Cristian Pocol, president of the Respo WEEE Association.

653 tons of mobile phone waste, produced by Romania in 2020

The total amount of waste generated by mobile phones in the 27 states last year reached 23,964 tons, which is equivalent to over 54 Boeing 747-8 aircrafts, with a maximum take-off weight (442 tons each) or to more than 138 blue whales (173 tons each). According to the study’s estimates, Romania produced 653 tons of mobile phone waste. Regarding the general recycling rate of mobile phones in Romania, it was 11%, again the lowest among the countries present in the study. On the other hand, the countries with the highest recycling rate are: Slovenia, with 75%, Germany, with 67% and Lithuania, with 59%.

“Globally, last year, we generated approximately 54 million metric tons of waste electrical and electronic equipment, according to Statista. But, through this study, we set out to give people a different perspective on old or broken electronics, by buying refurbished products and giving technology a second life. Also, if making new purchases, one should make sure they recycle old appliances properly, looking for the local recycling agent, instead of throwing them in landfills. Almost all waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) contains a certain type of recyclable material such as plastic, glass and metal”, said Torsten Schero, CEO of reBuy.

Author: Daniela Cristescu

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