Around eight million mobiles were recycled in the UK last year according to a report by analyst Ovum – double the number recycled in 2008.
The report also found while UK consumers are increasingly aware of the opportunities to recycle phones, the focus now tends to be on the financial rather than environmental benefits.
According to Ovum, the UK is the most developed and competitive handset recycling market in the world and estimates that over a quarter (26.5 per cent) of the 30.2 million devices recycled in Western Europe in 2009 were in the UK.
Ovum practice leader for mobile and report co-author Jeremy Green said: “The UK has seen an influx of online players that offer cash for old mobile phones. This increase in competition has resulted in a more cut-throat market and a commercial business model that has moved away from the original intention of responsible recycling and reducing landfill.”
The analyst said that the rise of specialists such as Envirofone means consumers are increasingly reorganising the value in old mobiles, the detriment of operator-led collection schemes and charities which cannot compete on price.
It added that two years ago most reusable handsets were destined to end up in Africa but now most are sold via auctions in Hong Kong. The sale of devices to third-party wholesalers via auctions means the majority of handsets are no longer traceable after this point.