Call Goes Out to Boost Used Mobile Phone Collection

Hundreds of pounds of gold, dozens of tons of copper, not to mention substantial amounts of other rare and precious metals such as iridium... this glittering haul comes from recycled cell phones and the Japanese government is pleased as punch since Japan must import many of these metals.

What's not so pleasing is that people seem to be more reluctant to recycle used cell phones. It's a troubling trend the government is taking action to reverse.

The figures are surprising: 11.71 million mobile phones were collected for recycling in 2003 but just 4 years later the number had fallen by nearly half, to 6.44 million.

A couple of factors are behind this drastic fall in collections, both rooted in the fact that cell phones just keep getting better. For one, many people continue to use their old phones as digital cameras once they've moved up to a new model. Secondly, there's concern that newer phones, which hold much more personal data than ever before, may fall into the wrong hands after being discarded.

The month-long campaign that ends July 7 is meant to raise awareness of cell phone recycling and in the process, raise the rate of recycling form its current 20 percent to at least 30 percent.

Japanese mobile phone provider NTT DoCoMo, in association with both the Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and the Environment Ministry, has installed cell phone collection boxes at participating convenience stores and NTT DoCoMo's own retail stores.

It's not clear how consumers' concerns about recycling their cell phones will be addressed by the campaign, but even if the percentage goals are met that means 70 percent of cell phones still won't be recycled. Perhaps smashing each cell phone with a mallet BEFORE dropping it in the collection box might help some. (via The Japan Times