Reducing environmental hazard caused by disposed mobile phones in developing countries

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The utilization of unused and retired mobile phones in South Africa and other African countries poses a significant environmental hazard. Disposing of retired mobile phones in a safe manner has become an issue of concern in South Africa because of health and environmental hazards associated with it. This study investigates the methods of disposing and recycling of old, unused and retired mobile phones and their associated environmental effect on humans and plants in Africa. A case study approach was used in this paper. Participants were selected from three cities in South Africa, targeting three government institutions and three mobile phone service providers. Semi-structured, open-ended interview questions were used to get evidence from the participants regarding how old, unused and retired mobile phones are disposed and possible effect of these on the environment. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded. Findings revealed that most common method of disposing of old, retired mobile phones was donating them as gifts, selling to second-hand shops or storing in homes as spare phones. Based on findings, a proposed framework was developed to guide the collection process, reducing, reusing and recycling of old and retired mobile phones in Africa. The framework will not only assist manufacturers and retailers in selecting a better option of disposing old mobile phones, but also will to improve the hazardous environmental conditions, which affect humans and plants.

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    • Fig. 1. Retired Mobile Phone (RMP) framework