If a pollster were to come up to us in the street, and ask us questions about environmental issues, I think I’m on pretty safe ground when I suggest that the vast majority of us would tell our clipboard-clutching interrogator that, yes, a green lifestyle is a better lifestyle, and we will be making every effort to live a greener lifestyle in the future; yes, if more environmentally sustainable goods were available, we would buy them; and yes, it is worth paying a premium for green products.
And then the pollster thanks us very much and moves onto the next person, and we saunter off, having demonstrated our concern for the environment on the form of ticks in the right boxes.
However, there’s many a slip betwixt cup and lip, or in this instance between ticked boxes and lower CO2 emissions.
Let me elaborate. Yesterday, Orange announced an initiative, Recycle & Reward, under which consumers can recycle their old mobiles (90 million of ‘em, currently gathering dust in the UK), laptops and personal music players in UK Orange stores in exchange for cash. The scheme has been launched in tandem with an instore Copy & Keep service, to assist consumers in transferring contacts and content from their old handset to the new phone.
For the first initiative, Orange has made the assumption – in my view correct – that the Great British Public requires a cash incentive to dig handsets out of dusty drawers, because it simply can’t be bothered or it has other things to do, like get the kids to school, do the dishes, watch Bargain Hunt, pop into Costas for a coffee, write blogs, feed the cats… And before the Great British Public knows it, the day is over and the handset is still in the dusty drawer.
Now is probably the time for me to ‘fess up. I have one of those 90 million handsets, tucked away in a draw somewhere – I don’t know precisely where, but I’m sure it’s here somewhere, along with the DVD remote that went missing over the summer, and my pool cue. And so does my partner, in part because, well, she finds transferring the content from device (a) to device (b) a bit, well, fiddly. As, according to research conducted by ESCP, do 38% of those in the UK who don’t back up their content onto their new phone.
Orange’s initiatives are not the first of their kind – a number of companies now offer takeback programmes with cash incentives , while Nokia’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together” was a well publicized campaign promoting content transfer – but together they are a worthy and welcome addition to the various industry sustainability schemes.
Ultimately, the key to delivering successful recycling schemes lies in making it as easy as possible for the Great British Public (this analyst and his partner included) to drop off that old handset while keeping hold of its content . And, to put it bluntly, to make it worth its while. For sadly, there is not necessarily a correlation between what we say and what we do; what boxes we tick and what phones we drop off.
Because, while the environment is, well, y’know, important and all that, Bargain Hunt is on the telly in a minute.