Recycling the O2 Way

by David Thorne

With great fanfare the iPhone 4 has arrived and naturally, being a metrosexual technophile, Hexhamite is among the first to have acquired one. The Blackberry Curve was just soooo passé. Given the absurd levels of attention focussed on alleged reception problems and the ludicrously minuscule stocks supplied to the UK’s telecommunication vendors, you might be forgiven for thinking that this weeks rant is about the iPhone.  Not so. iPhone 4  is superb. End of.

It is the “recycling” of the said defunct Blackberry that has me vexed. Let’s be clear, recycling is good. Recycling is heartily approved of. Earth’s resources are precious and must be preserved. My mobile telephone provider is to be energetically commended for their promise not to send any part of my old phone to landfill. Cynics argue that given the concentration of gold and other precious minerals contained in a typical handset, they are perhaps not as magnanimous as it might first appear. Meh!

How does recycling work? In a nutshell, Hexhamite sends off his old handset to O2 (for it is they of whom I speak) and in return they send a fistful of cash as a “reward” for my environmental conscientiousness. If the phone is still in working condition O2 send it off to “needy people in Africa”. 

Err..excuse me? Has the definition of poverty in the third world been revised since last I checked? Has famine and water shortage been eradicated? The AIDS pandemic cured, political instability resolved and genocide curtailed perhaps? Am I the only person seeing the stark raving incongruity here?

Having spent many years in darkest Africa, Hexhamite has seen first hand the hardship and deprivation suffered by many Africans. Where people live in tin shacks with no running water and a pair of secondhand shoes is a luxury. The third world has immeasurable problems and the west has a moral duty to lend assistance, but  are we helping by foisting our redundant gadgets on them? “Terribly sorry to hear about the cholera old chap. No sorry, can’t offer you any food or medicine but here’s a shiny new smart phone!”

What are they expected to do with these things? Africa is a continent vast beyond imagination, with virtually no mobile telecommunications infrastructure. Many people live hundreds of miles from electricity. Reception from one side of Hexhamite’s house to the other is patchy, and a few miles out of town is non-existent, so what is the coverage in Africa or the Indian subcontinent likely to be? Zero? Zilch? Nada conceivably?

Perhaps the idea was dreamed up by those fellows from the Orange commercials, where films are re-imagined to place the mobile at the heart of the plot. Slumdog Millionaire anyone? “I say Jamal, look at my spiffing new Blackberry. Why don’t you get your arse on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and win enough money to build a telephone mast and a house where I can plug my charger in?”

Priorities: food, water, shelter.  Hello, anybody there?

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