26 November 2014
Labour urges recycling of old mobile phones
Shadow Communications Minister, Helen Goodman MP, today launched a campaign to promote the recycling of old mobile phones and to call for greater transparency over tech companies’ supply chains.
Consumer demand for electronic goods has made the essential minerals used in their manufacture valuable natural resources. Sometimes the use of these minerals perpetuates conflict in mineral-rich countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, as armed groups have a financial interest in the mines. Likewise, mining can have a devastating impact on the environment, as is well documented in Indonesia.
Speaking to an audience of students, campaigners, tech companies and parliamentarians, Helen said:
“In the run up to Christmas many people are buying new mobiles as presents, but very few people know that the minerals going into their tech can have a bloody history. We are also working to raise public awareness of the environmental impact mining for these minerals has.
“It is only right that the companies profiting act responsibly and ensure they know where the minerals in their supply chain come from to limit the use of those which fuel conflict.
“Instead of simply throwing old devices away, we should all be recycling, so that the precious materials they contain can be reused and natural resources secured for generations to come. I have written to the tech companies to ask them to make this much easier.”
1. Helen has been working on the issue of conflict minerals with a range of third sector organisations such as Congo Calling and Friends of the Earth.
2. In October, Helen wrote to tech companies asking what they were doing to tackle conflict minerals. The letter has been sent to Apple, Google, Amazon, Blackberry, Nokia, Microsoft, Alcatel, HP, Samsung, Acer, LG, HTC, Huawei, Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Dell, Lenovo and the mobile network operators.
I am writing to you because the shadow Department of Culture, Media and Sport and shadow Department for International Development teams have been examining the issue of conflict minerals and the scope for recycling rare minerals. As you will be aware, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the state most frequently associated with conflict minerals, particularly the east of the country. It is rich in natural resources, in particular ‘the 3 Ts and gold’. The three Ts are tin, tungsten and tantalum (also known as coltan). Along with gold, these minerals are used in the electrical circuitry and LCD displays of everyday electronic goods such as mobile phones and laptops.
Consumer demand in the developed world for electronic goods such as those [company] manufactures has made these natural resources very valuable. These minerals perpetuate the conflict in the DRC as armed groups (including the army) have a financial interest in controlling mines. Likewise, they have an interest in keeping the eastern DRC unstable, since this allows them to retain their control over mines in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a strong, stable state.
The U.S. has led the way on regulating to crackdown on conflict minerals. Sections 1502 and 1503 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act require that any company floated on the stock exchange must annually disclose if they produce anything that needs conflict minerals to function. If they do, they must ‘provide a report describing, among other matters, the measures taken to exercise due diligence on the source and chain of custody of those minerals, which must include an independent private sector audit of the report’. After consultation, the EU recently announced voluntary self-certification for importers of raw minerals. This has been strongly criticised for being weak and failing to tackle the issue by a coalition of organisations including Global Witness, Amnesty International and Christian Aid.
Friends of the Earth revealed the environmental impact of the demand for these minerals in their report ‘Mining for smartphones: the true cost of tin’, which detailed the devastation caused by tin mining on Bangka Island in Indonesia. As demand for these finite resource grows, more needs to be done to ensure mining techniques are sustainable and to recapture and recycle minerals from used electronics.
I would be grateful if you would write to me letting me know what [company] does (a) to ensure that the minerals used in your products are not fuelling conflict and what you are doing to ensure secure, sustainable and fair conditions along your supply chains; and (b) to ensure that when people upgrade their electronics they are helped to recycle their old mobiles, laptops etc. so that the rare minerals can be re-used.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Helen Goodman MP
Shadow Minister for Communications
Office of Helen Goodman
MP for Bishop Auckland
Shadow Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries
0207 219 1443