Mobile phones have become ubiquitous – with estimates suggesting more than 90% of the global population now owns a mobile phone. The total number of active smartphones and feature phones around the globe is predicted to rise from 7.78 billion in 2022 to 9 billion in 2030. A similar trend is seen in the global router market.
Each one of these devices has embodied impacts. For example, the average smartphone contains more than 50 different materials, including plastics, ceramics and metals – all of which have environmental and social impacts, associated with raw material extraction, processing and production.
Climate impacts are significant, particularly associated with the device production stage: the average use time of a phone is around three years, and it is estimated that extending the lifetime of all phones around the world by one year has the potential to save up to 21.4 million tonnes of CO₂ annually by 2030, equal to taking more than 4.7 million cars off the road.
Device consumption is a significant contributor to e-waste - the world’s fastest growing waste stream - and a considerable portion is disposed of outside of formal waste management systems. Three operators are offering customers a more environmentally friendly option as we work towards realising a sustainable, inclusive and thriving digital economy.
When it’s time for a new device
Three UK offers ‘Three Recycle’ where customers can trade-in certain phones, tablets and wearables for responsible reuse or recycling at end-of-life. In 2022, Three UK’s Reconnected scheme was integrated into the customer trade-in process so that devices less suited to resale can be considered for donation – helping to optimise for circularity and digital inclusion benefits.
Also in 2022, Wind Tre launched its new ‘Reload exChange’ trade-in service that uses a diagnostic app to determine the trade in value of any used device. Three Sweden extended its existing device take back program, ‘3Återvinn’, to include routers, in addition to mobile phones, tablets and smart watches already included. Three Denmark has a ‘Byt-til-nyt’ take back program, making it easier for customers to return their devices for responsible management.
Three Ireland launched Three Recycle in 2023, so that both Three customers and non-Three customers have the opportunity to obtain money-back for the return of their electronic devices, including mobile phones, tablets and electronic wearables.
Find out more about our approach to sustainability and the options available to mobile users in our full 2022 sustainability report here.