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It must come as a surprise: Environmentally-minded Sweden has the most unused cell phones per capita. Every Swede statistically owns 1.31 cell phones that their fellow citizen Greta Thunberg does not use at all. That is the highest number to surface among 27 Western countries in a study of what is known as electronic waste.

Savings in CO2 emissions

Unused devices constitute an environmental burden. Yet by reusing the devices or properly recycling them, environmental gains can be achieved. For example, savings can be made in CO2 emissions (due to the decline in the manufacture of new phones).Also, parts of the phone that are made of precious metals can be given a new life, so that no new raw materials have to be used.

In the ranking of unused cell phones per country, Finland comes second with 1.29 units and Lithuania and Estonia jointly take third place with 1.24 unused cell phones per capita.

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    The United States, where most phones are circulating in the western world, is a lot lower on the list. An average American has less than one unused phone (0.68). New Zealanders are the most frugal on the list (0.54) and the Netherlands also does reasonably well (0.77).

    Second-hand appliances

    The study was commissioned by reBuy, a German online service for second-hand appliances. The results are based on the ‘Waste over time’ model devised by biologist Nico van Straalen (VU University Amsterdam). In order to estimate the total amount of cell phones being put on the market, the ‘Waste-over-time’ model uses European import, export and production data.

    It then uses estimates of product lifespans to calculate the electronic waste from discarded products. It also identifies the total stock this way of all the cell phones still available on the market. The estimates resulting from this model were combined with information from a small-scale survey that specifically asked about used and unused phones. How many people completed the questionnaire is not known.

    Also read here how France is leading the way with a repair index for electronic products.

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Ewout Kieckens is a Dutch journalist in Rome who writes about Italian lifestyle and culture. He has written books on diverse subjects such as the Vatican and Italian design. He is very interested in innovations, especially Italian contributions to progress.