Industry group the GSMA claimed changes to mobile phone recycling rates could cut up to 21.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually by 2030, as it called for action on the environmental repercussions prompted by high levels of mobile waste.

The GSMA detailed visions on achieving a circular economy across the mobile sector by outlining a business model which places recycling at the heart of the industry’s supply chain.

“An increased circularity for devices has a huge potential to reduce negative environmental impact”, Erik Wottrich, head of sustainability at Sweden-based Tele2 Group.

Wottrich headed GSMA research into potential device recycling strategies. It pegged annual mobile device sales at 2 billion, but noted 85 per cent of used units were not formally reprocessed.

In addition to the environmental implications, the GSMA noted a failure to recycle devices could hinder digital inclusion by preventing access to lower-cost products.

The GSMA called for the industry to prioritise maximising the longevity of handsets and continue to target zero waste strategies, arguing collaboration between operators, suppliers, manufacturers and consumers among others was key.

It also noted the mobile industry made significant progress in highlighting sustainability in its operations, with research showing 11 per cent of mobile devices sold globally today are refurbished.