Nearly half of young people have never recycled a phone, Virgin Media o2 research reveals

At least 45% of young people have never recycled a phone, according to new research from Virgin Media o2 in collaboration with NGO Hubbub and thinktank Green Alliance.

In addition, when they did recycle, just half (51%) of young people surveyed said they trusted that electricals get recycled when they are given to a recycler, whilst the remaining half were unsure or did not believe that their electricals would be recycled.

In a ‘Time after Time’ report published to coincide with the research, the Green Alliance made several recommendations including building repairability into devices, mandatory warranties and better labelling, as well as tax changes to incentivise recycling.

“With 5.3 billion mobile phones expected to be discarded this year globally and over a third of young people admitting to previously disposing of their phone in the bin, we urgently need to get a grip on the vast amounts of electrical items that are being disposed of,” said Hubbub co-founder Gavin Ellis.

“Our research suggests 66% of young people are unaware that smartphones contain precious metals. They also replace their phones more often than any other age group.”

He continued: “They’re savvy and keen to do the right thing but it’s evident they need much more support to do this, including receiving information on the subject in a tone or format that speaks to them.”


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Green Alliance head of resource policy Libby Peake said: “People want things they own to be long lasting and repairable, but the UK generates more e-waste than any other country apart from Norway – more than three times the global average.”

“One reason for this contradiction is, as this research shows, it can be difficult and expensive to repair our gadgets our buy them second-hand.”

She added: “That’s something the government could address: ensuring that products are designed with repair in mind, making it clear how easy it is to repair products when they’re sold, and eliminating VAT on spare parts and repair work. We can’t just keep ignoring the problem”.

Chief Sustainability Officer at Virgin Media o2 Dana Haidan said that the business was leading the way in “providing services to support people to repair, recycle or rehome devices with people in need” but that more needed to be done.

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