A majority of mobile-phone users leave their old devices unused at home, unaware that they can be recycled, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
Conducted by Nokia, the study polled some 6,500 people in 13 countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Germany, the US and the UK.
Only three percent of respondents said they recycle their mobile phones, while some 50 percent were not aware that their devices could be reused.
Markus Terho, Nokia's director of environmental affairs, said in a statement: "It is clear from this survey that, when mobile devices finally reach the end of their lives, very few of them are recycled. Many people are simply unaware that these old and unused mobiles lying around in drawers can be recycled, or [don't know] how to do this."
"If each of the three billion people globally owning mobiles brought back just one unused device, we could save 240,000 tonnes of raw materials and reduce greenhouse gases to the same effect as taking four million cars off the road," he said.
According to Nokia, consumers on average have each owned around five mobile phones, only four percent of which end up in a landfill. The Finnish handset maker said 44 percent of mobile devices were simply left at users' homes, unused.
Some 25 percent of respondents said they pass their old phones on to friends or family, while 16 percent chose to sell their used devices, according to the study. It also determined that 74 percent of those polled never considered recycling their phones, even though 72 percent agreed that recycling would make a difference to the environment.
Only 17 percent and 29 percent of respondents in India and Indonesia respectively were aware that their mobile phones could be recycled, while the figure for respondents in the UK, which had the highest level of awareness, was 80 percent.
Terho said: "Using the best recycling technology, nothing is wasted. Between 65 percent and 80 percent of a Nokia [phone] can be recycled. Plastics that can't be recycled are burnt to provide energy for the recycling process, and other materials are ground up into chips and used as construction materials or for building roads. This way, nothing has to go to landfill."
Nokia said it is aiming to encourage recycling of unwanted devices through a series of campaigns and activities, providing information on how to go about recycling old devices, chargers and other mobile accessories. The mobile-phone manufacturer said it has collection points for unwanted mobile devices in 85 countries, and that these products can be dropped off at its retail stores and some 5,000 Nokia Care Centers worldwide.
Environmental group Greenpeace last week released its latest quarterly report, rating Nintendo as the least eco-friendly electronics maker for its failure to help customers recycle and eliminate toxic chemicals.
Sony and Sony Ericsson were tied at number-one in the Greenpeace report, mainly for their efforts in reducing plastic ingredients such as PVC and phthalates. Nokia would have assumed the top position if it had not lost a point for failed recycling initiatives in India.