How to Recycle Your Phone (& Reduce Digital Poverty)

Replaced your smartphone recently? It’s time to recycle your phone! I recently replaced my older iPhone with a new model, and for some reason the first thing I did was pop my old phone in a drawer, as if I was saving it for something special. Turns out, I’m not alone – my boyfriend did the exact same thing with his last phone too, and it seems many of you do the same – for every phone in use in the UK, four phones go unused!

Amazingly, our unused phones have now gone on to do something special. We’ve donated them to Community Calling, a campaign, where they will go on to vulnerable and isolated people in London who don’t have a phone of their own. Here’s why we chose to support the campaign, and how you can do the same…

Everyone Deserves Internet Access

Did you know, 1.9 million UK households have no access to the internet? Now imagine how your life would look without internet access. Personally, I’ve become so reliant on the internet, that my life would look very different without it: No digital magazines! No Instagram! No digital activism! No job!

Sadly, this figure goes up when looking at digital exclusion, with 11 million people digitally excluded in the UK, unable to afford smartphones and other tech devices.

According to the CEBR, people living without internet are more likely to suffer from:

  1. Reduced earnings: 3%-10% reduction due to lack of digital skills
  2. Lower employability: lower chances of finding work
  3. Less access to retail savings: shopping online has been found to be 13% cheaper on average than shopping in-store
  4. Reduced communication: without basic digital skills, people connect 14% less frequently with family, friends and their community
  5. Longer wait times: services such as government support and banking can take longer to access over phone/in-person

It’s for these reasons that I believe everyone should have the right to internet access. Reducing this inequality is also a focus of the Sustainable Development Goals, and is something that our Government is actively working on, but as always, may need a little push to hurry it along.

So, here’s how to recycle your phone, benefit charity, and support the reduction of digital poverty near you.

Recycle Your Phone for Charity

London-based charity Hubbub has teamed up with O2 UK and Recono.me to provide digitally excluded communities with donated phones, as well as SIM cards with 15GB data, unlimited texts and unlimited minutes for 30 days. Their Community Calling campaign is in its early stages, focusing on the London Borough of Southwark, where Covid-19 has affected many people and left them lonely during lockdown.

To recycle your phone, all you have to do is:

  • Sign up to gift a phone
  • Receive your donation pack via post
  • Factory reset your phone (iPhone guide / Android guide)
  • Pop your phone (and charger if you have it) in the freepost envelope in your donation pack
  • Send your phone off by putting it in your nearest postbox!

Your phone will then be inspected by a Recono.me Engineer to check it is in working condition and donated to someone in need. And for phones that aren’t in working condition, these will be recycled for parts.

How To Reduce Digital Poverty

As with so many inequalities, digital poverty needs to be addressed on both an individual and collective scale. So after you have recycle your phone, here’s how you can support the reduction of digital poverty:

Support Local Schools & Digital Skills Education

Schools play an important role in closing the digital poverty gap, but with many schools closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, some school-age children who need this education could miss out. If you’d like to support schools near you, you can:

  • Check whether the school has received any Government-funded laptops to support children away from the classroom
  • Write to your local MP with any concerns
  • Campaign for similar charity drives such as Community Calling for donated phones and laptops in your area

This is critical now more than ever, as the Government is providing free online lessons for school-age children at the Oak National Academy website, and recommending learning through BBC Bitesize‘s lessons.

Teach Someone To Use The Internet

I’m a 90’s kid, so I practically grew up online. My dad came home with our first computer when I was just three or four years old, and I remember the dial-up sounds like a nostalgic soundtrack. Using the internet feels completely normal to me – but I know this isn’t the case for so many people, my family included.

When I was a pre-teen, I remember my mum learning how to use the computer. Despite previously being a secretary and speedy touch-typist, she wasn’t familiar with simple things such as using a mouse, or accessing the internet through a web browser. Fortunately, she was able to familiarise herself using a CD-ROM from our local library, and sitting with us children while we played online games and logged into MySpace.

Nowadays, teaching someone how to use the internet is even easier. Many devices are designed to be intuitive, and have multi-functional uses. My grandma loves her Kindle, for example. But for some, a guide may still be helpful. Here’s a few to help them get started:

Campaign for Internet Access & Net Neutrality

And finally, let’s get our digital activism on, this time for a free and fair internet for all.

In all honesty, I’m surprised by the lack of campaigns for digital poverty reduction, especially in a time like this. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how vital the internet is for social connection, education, and quite frankly our economy as a whole.

Petitions to sign for supporting internet access:

And, I recommend reading up on net neutrality. Between 2015-2019, the US became the battleground between internet users and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) over net neutrality, with users arguing that ISPs “should treat all content flowing through their cables and cell towers equally”, and – you guessed it – ISPs arguing that they should be able to sell priority packages to some users, and throttle internet access to lower-paying users.

The US’s campaign is now in the hands of Congress, the courts, and state legislators, but the importance of defending a free and open internet for all continues worldwide. I recommend reading the WIRED guide to net neutrality to understand the issue further, and keep an eye out for when this issue may reach the UK.

P.S. If you know of any other resources, campaigns, and petitions to support, please share them in the comments!

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