back to article Junk cellphones on Earth would stack higher than the International Space Station

Alongside National Dessert Day, National Boss's Day, and World Egg Day, October 14 is also International E-waste Day. To celebrate, the unfortunately named WEEE Forum (that's waste electrical and electronic equipment) has compiled some grim reading. The awareness group reckons that of the 16 billion mobile phones owned …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few years ago I junked 8 old working phones

    of which 7 were useless due to operator locks.

    Don't blame the public.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: A few years ago I junked 8 old working phones

      I have an older Motorola smartphone, larger than my iPhone SE 1st gen, now going on 7 years old, still runs iOS 15.7. I gave my aging iPhone5 to my son, it's showing it's age. Perhaps I'll buy a second hand 2nd gen SE and give him my SE, would make him happy! The Motorola android is tied to a carrier in the US, where I currently don't live. I use it on wifi for a gaming tablet. I'm trying to get the unlock code for it, but that is been slow moving. It's a solid phone, never an issue...

      My wife recently brought a nokia out of the 'hoard' and is actively using it for a cell number local to our current country of residence.

  2. karlkarl Silver badge

    The only criminals here are...

    The people who keep buying them!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We used to have deposits on bottles...

    ...So why not a fiver on a phone?

    Drop your old/dead phone in to your phone shop of choice for recycling when you're done with it and get £5 back - people would willingly do that.

    Again, it just requires some effing leadership from a government that cares about something other than itself.

    / So we're screwed

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: We used to have deposits on bottles...

      Do you trust your average phone shop employee to wipe or destroy the phone without have a rummage around the data first? Most people don't seem to know how to wipe their old phones and that, I suspect, is another major reason why people hang onto their old phones.

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: We used to have deposits on bottles...

        That's exactly why I still have every smart phone I've ever owned. Probably ought to do something about it.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    Longer support times

    and operating system/firmware updates would cut waste - but this would hurt manufacturers' profits so is unlikely to happen.

    1. Lis

      Re: Longer support times

      @alain williams

      It seems to work for Apple

  5. codejunky Silver badge


    "This is despite their wealth of gold, copper, silver, palladium, and other reclaimable internals."

    Oh wow wonderful! So WEEE members can set up a recycling centre and pay people for their E-garbage where they extract the 'wealth' of metals and make a profit while they are at it. Cant they? With all that wealth of metal? *tumble-weed*

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      It's already being done. But AFAIK, it's rarely profitable in many jurisdiction because of the nasty chemical processes and resultant toxic waste used to extract the valuable metals. And the labour intensive part of separating the cases and batteries from the boards etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm

      WEEE sure can. And if we site centres in the North of England, all the waste/effluent generated can be piped into the ground to use for fracking. Trebles all round!!!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Enquiring minds want to know -

    How far would they go if they were stacked end to end?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Side by side

      More Importantly, If they were laid side by side how many Wales would they cover?

      1. Mozzie

        Re: Side by side

        You don't get whales in space. That was fictional for a movie and they take up more room in a starship.

  7. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Wait until

    the windows 11 refresh cycle gets fully underway

    With 10s of 1000's of perfectly good computers junked because win 11 'refuses' to run on them.

    Pssst ... wanna save the planet..... install linux ....

  8. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    So today must be

    National Weee on your Boss's Egg Dessert Day.

  9. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Cell phone recycle

    It's November 5th soon, charge the phone up even if it doesn't work and then knock a nail through it to light the bonfire. This is effective even with a working phone that you take out of your jacket pocket.

  10. DS999 Silver badge

    The numbers don't add up

    OK maybe the world has 16 billion phones because some people are hoarding their old ones in a drawer for some reason, but if 5 billion are disposed of in a single year we'll be at zero in only five years, given that the world is adding less than 2 billion phones (both smart and feature) per year.

  11. Kev99 Silver badge

    But, but, the new model now comes in chartreuse and mine is puce, so I HAVE to scrap the old one for this new model. So what if it offer absolutely no advantages over the phone I had 5 years ago.

    1. jake Silver badge

      "So what if it offer absolutely no advantages over the phone I had 5 years ago."

      My desk telephone is about 70 years old. It's a 1950s Western Electric Model 500. It does everything I need a telephone in that location to do, except DTMF, which was easily rectified with a little circuitry and a couple switches and buttons. (My telco still supports pulse dialing, the DTMF option is handy for accessing voice-mail torture devices "helpfully" provided by third parties.)

      1. PRR Bronze badge


        > My telco still supports pulse dialing..

        Wow! OK, mine does too, but they add $2 to the monthly bill if you use pulse.

        All the Strowger switches died (or cast-out for bulk and scrap value) long ago. A CPU can decode pulse but it is a major mis-match between speedy CPU and slow dial. And demand is VERY low so it just won't amortize (so they say). And it is a way to get a few more off-tariff bucks from people who are unlikely to complain or have the power to be heard.

        Side-tale. Phone line polarity never mattered much until the very first TouchTones. They had one transistor and no rectifier. Flipped polarity caused no harm, it just did not work. The installer got it right and you were cool. BUT my father was on a very old central with layers of legacy over-builds, and that was on a year-long consolidation project. Every week or two they would cut-out a legacy layer with a polarity flip and Dad's phone would ring and talk and dial-tone but would not "dial" (tone). He had hacked phones in the 1950s for factory data lines. He figured out how to dial, not only "0" for Operator to report trouble, but the 7-digit number to reach Mom at work. (I asked why not a DPDT switch and he said he didn't expect it to go on this long...)

    2. Giles C Silver badge

      Well as an I phone user.

      I have a 13 as may main phone for personal use. I also have an 8 which is used for work. An a 5 which changes shape when the battery has charged. That does need to go to recycling.

      The 5 was my work phone, but when that starting bulging it was swapped for the 8 and I got the 13 for my main phone.

      The 13 is just over a year old and I can’t see me replacing that until the 8 expires….

      Other than that there is a canon 7d in the shelf that works. It Is a spare if I get the problem with the newer body.

  12. mattaw2001

    regulate for replaceable batteries and software updates

    I just don't think humanity as a whole can afford to have such an amazingly expensive and energy intensive technical device be replaced at the rate of cell phones.

    I hate to recommend it but I think we're going to have to have regulation to insist on replaceable batteries and software updates for say 5 years.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: regulate for replaceable batteries and software updates

      "I think we're going to have to have regulation to insist on replaceable batteries and software updates for say 5 years."

      Make it ten years, and I'm with you.

      Make it twenty, and you'll drink for free in this pub for the rest of your life.

      No, Marketing, I do NOT want the latest, greatest glitter. I just want to make/receive a phone call. Really.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: regulate for replaceable batteries and software updates

      > regulate for replaceable batteries

      Phone batteries are already replaceable. Samsung charge roughly 10% of the cost of the handset to replace the battery, as do Apple - as a sample of vendors. Just factor it into the cost when you're choosing a phone.

      I replaced my last battery myself, buying it from iFixit. Sadly the new battery wasn't much better than the old one.

  13. that one in the corner Silver badge

    "I might use it again" (46 percent) - well, I might

    Throwing USB cables into your wastebin because you can't think of anything better to do with them - ok, that is e-waste.

    Putting the same cable into my Useful Box is now hoarding and *also* e-waste, because what, I won't get around to using that cable for anything else for, oh, 6 months? 12 months? 24 months? Spotted one that was some 5 years old last week - because I'd used up all the newer ones that had landed on top. Maybe its time will come soon, maybe not so soon.

    Yes, I have some Android 'phones (two, IIRC) that haven't been switched on for about 3 years now. Is this hoarding? Well, haven't been out of the UK in all that time, so no need for a "don't really care about it" 'phone each. Better to hold onto them or is that Bad Hoarding? When the batteries die, fine, no use keeping them around. Meanwhile, there are weird ideas floating around (glue one behind a mirror for a Halloween trick?) - in all honesty, good chance I won't get around to that, but if enthusiasm strikes better to be able to reuse than to go out and get something new (even if just second hand and "new to me").

    Recycling valuable materials is definitely a Good Thing, but they are just going to have to wait until I pop my clogs (and everyone left around has picked over the piles), at which point the "hoarded" stuff will go into the proper WEEE streams.

  14. MachDiamond Silver badge

    No, yeah, no

    "literal goldmine"

    First, drop the word "literal", it makes you sound like the parody of a 15yo girl.

    Second, the vanishingly small amount of precious metals used in a phone don't add up to much and "rare-earth" metals aren't particularly rare, it's just an unfortunate name. It's much like saying "honest politician". To extract the metals is a nasty chemical process and can wind up doing more harm to the environment than the initial mining.

    Gold has, for the most part, been weaned from the electronics industry. What is still very useful is Silver. This is why I like silver as a medium of savings. It's used in tiny tiny amounts and in doing so, it's prevalence is getting smeared out more and more over time. Every mining company in the world is looking for places where they can extract big heavy lumps of something in every scoop. At least they want the target material in high enough concentration that it's worth recovering. Mobiles might be the complete opposite.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: No, yeah, no

      > "literal goldmine"

      >> First, drop the word "literal", it makes you sound like the parody of a 15yo girl.

      No, it was used correctly. People often use 'goldmine' figuratively, but in this case he really was talking about the extraction of gold for profit.

      In contrast, the archetypical 15yo girl is known for using the word literally incorrectly, such as "I literally died I was so embarrassed".

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