Resist the urge to upgrade

If mobile phones are the latest fashion accessory, I’m on the worst dressed list.  Friends have been chortling at my ancient Nokia for years but it never bothered me. 


Handed down to me by my boyfriend, my mobile came with an ancient contract that doesn’t offer free annual upgrades, unlike the majority of phone contracts on the market today.  Given my cheapness and the mountains of electronic waste in Britain, I was happy enough with my trusty mobi. 

But when my friend was due for yet another new phone I was delighted to take the old one off her hands.   “It’s just sitting at home in a box,” she said. 

And what an improvement!


Like most of the latest mobiles it’s got a camera, interactive menus, funky ring tones and a whole load of things I don’t understand and will likely never use. 

But our endless appetite for the latest technology comes at a big price.  In the next 18 months, three out of every four mobile phone owners in the UK will replace or upgrade to a new handset and 95 per cent of the old ones are binned. 

Oxfam warns that mobile phones can cause serious environmental problems if the toxic materials inside leak.  One mobile battery could pollute 600,000 litres of water.

Tons of charities in the UK accept mobile phone donations – even relics like mine, so it’s sad to learn that the vast majority of people can’t be asked.  Oxfam provides free posters and tips for organising a mobile phone collection at work – a great way to prompt people to dig out their old handsets. 

Recycling is only a small part of the solution. 

Piles of electronic garbage are reaching new heights.  The Environment Agency estimates that at least one million tonnes of electrical and electronic waste from homes and businesses is discarded in the UK every year and this figure is expected to grow by four to eight percent annually.  The UK has more mobiles than people! 

Until businesses and consumers begin to turn down free upgrades, phone companies will continue to push the latest gadgets. 

Spend time choosing a mobile with all the components you need and a design you like – and  stick with it.  Handsets are designed to work for TEN years but are usually only used for two.

If you want to donate your old phone try any of these worthy charities:


Help the Aged
Water Aid

UK, Ireland, US
Recycling Appeal


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1 Comment

Filed under ethical living, green living, thrifty

One response to “Resist the urge to upgrade

  1. Jenn

    THank you for writing about this topic. It is an environmental issue that many people are not aware of. Personally, I would not have gotten a new phone but Adam lost ours soooo.

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