The mobile phone that travels more than you do

phone-recycle-300x300You remember I was tracking the recycling of my old mobile phone with O2?

Well it’s all turned out beautifully and I have a heart warming tale to share!

I sent my phone via Freepost to Falkirk and soon after I received an email to say the £43.50, which is what my old Blackberry was worth, had been donated to Think Big on my behalf.

The next day I had an update on my phone’s journey.

Below you’ll see the technician, Chelsea Taylor, checking and testing the phone for grading purposes:


Phones are graded either A, B or C.

Grade A means the phone requires no work and can go straight out for sale

Grade B is the same as above but more time is spent on light buffing and cleaning, removing cosmetic damage and light wear and tear

Grade C means heavy damage; it might not be functioning properly or there could be damage to the buttons, cracks on the screen etc. These phones have to undergo an improvement process or sold to a developing market to be done there.

My poor Blackberry was graded C; a bit like me for needlework at school.

After Chelsea has graded each phone, she updates the system to let the recycler know how much money they will be getting. She then passes the phone to the Triage holding unit where each phone is kept for 48 hours in case the recycler changes their mind and wants their phone back.

Pictured is Jordan Hall carefully placing my phone in Triage:


When the 48hrs are up, our intrepid phone was transferred into a warehouse holding box waiting to be placed in an order request package.

A few days later I received another email and discovered in that time my Blackberry has been on quite a journey; over 3000 miles! Thanks to Hanif Gujar, a member of the sales team, the phone was sold as part of a consignment of phones to Eric Apraku in Ghana.

Eric very kindly offered some information about him and his business. He writes:
“I’m self employed and have been in business for approximately 10 years.
I sell approximately 800 phones per month
My customers use their phones for pleasure and in some cases, business also
Most of my customers have had phones before but about 5% of my customer base are new starters to mobiles
The most popular selling phone is the Nokia model because they are durable, user friendly and most importantly the accessories and components are easily accessible.
For the next 2 years I see my customers still buying brands like yours and see customer’s opinions changing on phones, they are seeing the phones become less of a fashion accessory like it was some years back, it’s now a necessity.
My customers want good quality low cost phones and don’t mind if it is a used phone.”


After Eric had taken care of my mobile phone for a while, Sam walked into a shop in Ghana and decided it was the perfect one for her! Here is Sam purchasing the phone:


I can’t help but feel incredibly moved by this story. A phone that was graded ‘C’ in the rich Western world, and which I basically rejected as ‘not good enough’ was given a new lease of life and has become possibly a life-line to someone else.

It throws up a lot of personal questions about how we value things, our disposable culture and our obsession with the newest and latest gadget. Of course I’m delighted this mobile phone has been recycled and gone to a new home but I can’t help feeling a bit guilty too. Usually we’re so detached from what actually happens to things once they leave our possession.

From the moment we put something in the recycling bin, it’s instantly ‘out of sight, out of mind’. We assume we know where it ends up and we make ourselves feel better by justifying our recycling habits, but it’s not until you are privileged enough, as I was, to be able to intimately track what is going on, that you become more personally involved. I feel some kind of connection with Eric and the people at O2 and Redeem who made this project possible, but especially with Sam who picked out the very mobile I got rid of and decided it was the right one for her.

I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I enjoyed being a part of it and I’d love to hear any comments you have.