German politician proposes cell phone deposit | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 09.03.2012
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German politician proposes cell phone deposit

A Green Party member of paliament has proposed that Germans pay a 10-euro deposit on their mobile phones. The money would then be refunded once the phones are properly recycled at the end of the product's life.

Nokia mobile phones in Helsinki, Finland April 16, 2009. Nokia releases first-quarter figures on Thursday. LEHTIKUVA / Heikki Saukkomaa +++(c) dpa - Report+++

There are around 110 million mobile phones in Germany

On Thursday, a German politician put forward a new proposal to the parliament that would put a 10-euro ($13.20) deposit on all mobile phones sold in Germany to encourage users to recycle the device when they're ready to upgrade.

Dorothea Steiner, a Green party member of the German parliament, formally presented her request to the Environmental Committee, which is expected to recommend it be adopted by the whole parliament next month.

"There are so many processed rare earth metalsIn cell phones and other electronic devices, it would be irresponsible to throw them away," she told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, a newspaper based in the northwestern German city of Osnabrück.

"The mountain of obsolete models is growing constantly," she added.

In January 2012, the European Union adopted new measures that require all member states to collect 45 percent of e-waste by 2016, boosting that figure to 65 percent by 2019.

Steiner has argued that this could be boosted to 60 percent by 2016 and 80 percent by 2019 through her deposit proposal. The idea is that when a mobile phone is purchased, its sale price would be increased by 10 euros. Then, when that phone is traded in or recylced at an approved facility, the phone's owner would get those 10 euros back. It's a model that's commonly used to encourage the recycling of bottles.

At present, there are about 110 million mobile phones in Germany.

Business alternatives

Not all mobile phone users think that the proposal is viable.

Björn Brodersen, the editor-in-chief of, told DW in an e-mail that this idea was not a "practical solution."

"It needs a lot of bureaucratic effort to realize such a system and the incentive for the user is not big enough, in my opinion," he wrote. "I think it is more appealing to the customer when he or she has to return his or her old device in order to get a new one, e.g. when renewing a contract."

He acknowledged though that the problem of e-waste is one that should not be taken lightly, adding that new business models may come into place that will encourage or even require recycling. As an example, he cited that the mobile provider E-Plus, which already offers a mobile lease program in Germany.

"Then, customers will have to give back their mobile phone after the two-year contract period and the device can be recycled," he said.

Author: Cyrus Farivar
Editor: Holly Fox

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