UK's mobile phone mountain keeps growing

Individuals and companies who have upgraded their mobile phones can do some good by making sure their old devices have a useful future

Nearly one million mobile phones have been thrown away or left to gather dust in a drawer over the last couple of weeks by users who got a new handset for Christmas, according to The Body Shop, which is urging people to recycle unwanted mobiles.

The environmentally conscious high street retailer released details of a survey on Tuesday which found that more than a quarter of consumers who received a new phone will either bin their old one or simply do nothing with it. Just 4 percent are expected to recycle their earlier model.

As an estimated 3.75 million new mobiles sold over the Christmas period, The Body Shop believes it is important that the handsets they supplant go to a good home.

It operates a recycling scheme in partnership with Greener Solutions -- one of several mobile phone recycling schemes in operation in the UK -- where unwanted handsets can be left at any one of The Body Shop's stores. They will then be recycled, or shipped to the developing world if they can be reused.

Refuge, a charity that supports the victims of domestic violence, will receive £2.75 for every phone that is handed over.

"Three-quarters of a million unwanted phones equates to over £2m that could be used to throw a lifeline to the victims of domestic violence and their families," said Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, in a statement.

"Mobile phones contain many toxic substances which can be released into the air or our water supply when burned or disposed of in landfills, creating threats to human health and the environment," Roddick added.

Mobile phones contain a cocktail of potentially dangerous substances, including arsenic, cadmium, zinc and lead. If they're just thrown into a landfill, then these elements can leak out and damage the environment and the health of humans or wildlife.

It is thought that there are as many as 100 million mobile phones lying unused in the UK at present.

Other mobile phone recycling schemes in operation include Fonebak, which is supported by all five of the UK's mobile phone operators as well as the Dixons Group of retail stores. Unwanted mobile phones can be posted to Fonebak for free, or dropped in at Currys, Dixons, The Link and PC World stores, or at the retail outlets of the mobile operators.

Companies that find they have a large number of unwanted mobile phones on their hands, perhaps after upgrading their collection of company handsets, could be able to recoup some of this investment. The Mobile Phone Recycling Company purchases and recycles redundant mobile phones from companies and organisations that have at least 30 handsets to dispose of. A similar service is also offered by Corporate Mobile Recyling, which is a partner with charity Oxfam.