January 24 is International Day for Mobile Phone Recycling, an initiative started by the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) offices all over the world who issue a call to action to recycle old mobile devices. Of surprising relevance, Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market – according to the GSMA 2017 Mobile Economy Report, with smartphone connections doubling in the region over the past two years to nearly 200 million, accounting for a quarter of mobile connections in 2016. While this is good news for the emerging market and economy, it may be less appealing to environmentalists.
According to a United Nations Environment Program report entitled ‘Waste Crimes’, up to a staggering 50 million tons of electronic waste – mostly computers and smartphones – will be dumped this year alone. This is up 20% from 2015, when around 41 million tons of electronic waste was discarded, mostly into third world countries serving as global landfills.
South African companies are slowly waking up to the call for products that exist within a new "circular economy" that rejects the "take, make and dispose” extractive industrial model, and seeks alternative routes which are restorative and regenerative by design. At the intersection between affordability and environmental consciousness lies a growing trend for refurbished or reconditioned items, a relatively new market in South Africa and the last few years have seen local companies such as Vodacom, DSTV, and weFix already responding to the call for refurb or repair products.
Alicja Radwanska, Chief Marketing Officer at weFix says, “As of January 24th, we are going to implement recycle bins permanently in our 35 stores and promote this initiative on a continuous basis, partnering over the long-term with the Jane Goodall Institute. Customers can easily drop off old devices, and, for every 20 devices we recycle, we will adopt a chimpanzee for a year and are aiming to sponsor all 33 chimps at Chimp Eden in South Africa. So the real challenge is for consumers to start repairing and recycling their electronic waste with reputable and trusted companies, as opposed to simply replace."
Pauline Stuart from South Africa's Jane Goodall Institute adds, "As consumers, we can make a big difference by recycling our phones and reducing the demand for these minerals. Doing so removes these electronics from the waste stream, and also reduces the demand for extraction of resources from the habitats that many species, especially chimpanzees, other great apes, and human beings call home. Extraction of these natural resources involves destroying the forests that chimpanzees call home. Tracts of forest are cleared to make way for new roads leading to mining sites which then open up the previously inaccessible forest to loggers and poachers. Control over the mining of these minerals has fueled conflict among human communities and perpetuated unsustainable livelihoods for the people who live among them, migrating to forests in search of safety from the conflict, which also results in the hunting of local wildlife for food, including chimpanzees."
Misha Teasdale of local environmental organization, Greenpop, dedicated to planting trees through urban greening and reforestation projects, explains, "Protection and rehabilitation of ecosystems through planting trees and the recycling of handsets interestingly enough are very much linked. Our smartphones, while they give us a huge amount of convenience and pleasure come at a massive cost to the earth and to communities who are at the forefront of the extraction. Mining of the precious metals and elements that are needed within these phones come at the cost of polluting drinking water, forest loss and drastic landscape changes leading to soil erosion. It can also increase pollutants in our water and soils which adversely affects humans and animals." weFix has also been partnering with Greenpop since 2016 to help spread environmental awareness, and activate people through green festivals and workshops across Southern Africa. To date, through Greenpop, weFix has planted an impressive 1,400 trees.
Radwanska concludes, "The greatest challenge with this initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa is education about device recycling and there is a significant quantity of potential phones that could be refurbished. While most are second hand, others may be from damage during shipment, demo units that have been shop-soiled, or new devices that have a fault upon opening, requiring a part to be fixed and therefore bring an otherwise intact unit back to life. "The point is that there is great value in these parts, and in them getting a "second life" - a seemingly simple solution can have a dramatic impact, but we have to educate first."
From Wednesday 24 January to Sunday 28 January, weFix will be offering 20% off all smartphone and tablet screen repairs. During this time, black bins for e-waste will be placed in each of our 35 stores where customers may recycle smartphones, tablets, smart watches, laptops and laptop/smartphone chargers. weFix has partnered up with Jane Goodall's Chimp Eden. This collaboration will see us sponsoring all chimpanzees being housed at the Jane Goodall Chimp Eden sanctuary, over a period of one year. For every 20 devices recycled, we will adopt one chimpanzee. Chimpanzees are displaced from their natural habitats in Africa, because of mineral mining (material for smart devices). If you would like more information on this, please visit mobilerecyclingday.org.
Terms and Conditions
• Promotion is valid from Wednesday 24 January to Sunday 28 January at weFix stores nationwide.
• Offer only applies to repairs booked in within the campaign period and not devices already booked in and collected during the aforementioned period.
• Promotion does not apply to iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X.
• weFix reserves the right, in their sole discretion, to cancel or suspend the promotion. In such event, where the promotion is cancelled or suspended, all participants or entrants agree to waive any rights that they may have in terms of the promotion and acknowledge that they have no recourse against weFix, their employees, agents, partners, suppliers, sponsors or promoters.
•These terms and conditions will be construed, interpreted and enforced in accordance with the laws of the Republic of South Africa. Any violation or attempt to violate any of the above terms and conditions will result in immediate disqualification of the participant or entrant