Hibernation Crisis – A Missing Link in Circular Material Flow

The world around us continues to be in a state of flux – with new innovations and technologies being developed across the globe every day. Digitalization revolutionized modern living and changed the way we work.

The phenome of a throwaway society is worldwide. Even the developing countries show a rapid growth in mobile devices. This trend is nowhere else more obvious than in India. India’s smartphone market hugely relies on the low and mid-range “budget phones”, which are designed as littering products. These range of products is regularly upgraded to a newer version, but cannot upgrade on the newest software or be repaired. Identification of the reasons and solutions to protect the resources is more than necessary. The reasons can be summarized on a few aspects:

 

“Mobile Phone Hibernation” – An example with Chennai Metropolitan, India

pie chart hibernation mobilesChennai, the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is located on the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal. It is one of the largest metropolitan cities in India with a population of about 9.5 million. A survey with 421 people from Chennai reflected that 70.7% of them have a mobile phone hibernating in their household cupboards. Although the dominant reason for non-disposal of a mobile phone was to keep it as a ‘spare’, which was about 29.2%. There were a small group (2.2%) who responded as having no idea on “What to do with them”.

Blaue Balken in einem Diagram

The number of phones in hibernation varied from 1 to 7, with an average of 1.42 per household.

Answers on the question, why old products are not given to recycling are various. There is a lack of disposal or collecting options, emotional value as the stored data are personally and there is a fear of losing the data or get abused as well as a lack of knowledge over the value of materials in the product. Access to service quantities, reliable lifetime and the development of an infrastructure to collect and recycle are required actions. Spring is coming every year – the possibility to awake mobile phones from hibernation is coming again and again. Apparently the wakeup call was not loud enough yet.

Eveline Lemke, Naveedh Ahmed Sekar, M.Sc.

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