Fewer users inclined to recycle cellphones

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

For the first time in three years, the number of mobile phones recycled in Japan was down in fiscal 2011, a reflection of the tendency of people to hang on to their handsets even after canceling their contracts, according to the Telecommunications Carriers Association.

Ever since Softbank Mobile Corp. began selling Japan’s first smartphone, the iPhone, in July 2008, the trend has been to keep old models as data-storage devices. The number of recycled mobile phones dropped 5.1 percent to 6.97 million units in the year that ended in March, from 7.34 million a year earlier, the association said in a release Tuesday.

“With the prevalence of smartphones, mobile phones have high-tech and many functions. Thus, more people keep phones that they no longer use as communication tools,” the association said.

The agency polled about 2,000 mobile phone users, 30 percent of whom owned a smartphone. That compared with just 10 percent in the survey in the previous year.

In the fiscal 2011 survey, 36 percent of the respondents said they didn’t discard old mobile phones because they contain data (photos, emails, etc.) they want to keep. It was the most common reason cited among 25 options given.

Twenty-seven percent explained they use old phones for functions other than communication, while 24 percent said they were emotionally attached to their old phone. Eighteen percent said they held onto the phones for “no particular reason.”

Thirteen percent said they were worried that personal information might be leaked, and 9 percent said they didn’t know how to recycle their handset.

Not all mobile phone shops accept phones for recycling, leaving it up to consumers to find one that will.

Mobile phones contain precious metals such as gold, silver and palladium, which can be reprocessed for electronic components.

The number of recycled mobile phone batteries also fell in the year that ended in March for the first time in five years, dropping 3.4 percent to 9.74 million from 10.09 million in the previous year. The number of recycled mobile phone chargers almost halved to 3.19 million from 6.12 million, the second drop in as many years.

The association is made up of mobile phone operators and companies in related industries.