Who Said Recycled Handsets Need To Be Made Into Handsets?
By Mike Masnick, Thu Feb 03 01:00:00 GMT 2005

There's a new push to recycle old mobile phones. Perhaps we need to be thinking of more things that they can be recycled into.

The question of recycling handsets is getting a lot of attention lately. People are replacing their handsets on a regular schedule, and no one is quite sure what to do with the old ones. Some get left sitting around collecting dust, some get passed on to friends or relatives, but most, honestly, just get tossed into the garbage. In the US, alone, a new study shows that only about 5% of mobile phones are recycled. Of course, part of the equation may be what happens to the phones that are recycled.

Some phones are sent abroad to other, less developed countries, where they're resold. Others are given to the elderly since phones without a service plan still can be used to make emergency calls. A slight adjustment on that is happening in the UK, where old mobile phones are being converted into "safety alarms." The phones are being given to women at risk of domestic abuse, who can push a single button to report a problem while also being able to receive incoming phone calls "for added assurance."

However, is there any reason that recycling of mobile phones needs to stay there? Especially in cases where the technology may be obsolete for a phone, it can still be useful in other types of applications. How hard would it be, for instance, to convert an old cameraphone into a simple security camera? Or taking an older smartphone and setting it up specifically to be a telematics device within a car? These aren't necessarily "handsets" any more, but the connectivity and processor power can still be used for other purposes.

One hurdle, of course, is that service providers don't really have plans to support such things. However, if operators start to view such "converted" offerings as incremental revenue, beyond a traditional phone, they could come up with inexpensive service plans that actually fit with the service being offered. The end result could be beneficial for everyone. Older phones get put to use in a new and useful capacity rather than discarded. People get new, inexpensive offerings that can be quite useful, and the mobile operators get a shot at additional incremental revenue from a complementary source to their existing product lines.