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The hibernating mobile phone: Dead storage as a barrier to efficient electronic waste recovery

Wilson, Garrath T.; Suckling, James R.; Smalley, Grace; Lee, Jacquetta; Mawle, Richard; Lilley, Debra


Garrath T. Wilson

James R. Suckling

Grace Smalley

Jacquetta Lee

Richard Mawle
Senior Lecturer in Product Design Engineering

Debra Lilley


© 2016 The Authors Hibernation, the dead storage period when a mobile phone is still retained by the user at its end-of-life, is both a common and a significant barrier to the effective flow of time-sensitive stock value within a circular economic model. In this paper we present the findings of a survey of 181 mobile phone owners, aged between 18–25years old, living and studying in the UK, which explored mobile phone ownership, reasons for hibernation, and replacement motives. This paper also outlines and implements a novel mechanism for quantifying the mean hibernation period based on the survey findings. The results show that only 33.70% of previously owned mobile phones were returned back into the system. The average duration of ownership of mobile phones kept and still in hibernation was 4years 11months, with average use and hibernation durations of 1year 11months, and 3years respectively; on average, mobile phones that are kept by the user are hibernated for longer than they are ever actually used as primary devices. The results also indicate that mobile phone replacement is driven primarily by physical (technological, functional and absolute) obsolescence, with economic obsolescence, partly in response to the notion of being ‘due an upgrade’, also featuring significantly. We also identify in this paper the concept of a secondary phone, a recently replaced phone that holds a different function for the user than their primary phone but is still valued and intentionally retained by the user, and which, we conclude, should be accounted for in any reverse logistics strategy.


Suckling, J. R., Wilson, G. T., Smalley, G., Lee, J., Mawle, R., & Lilley, D. (2017). The hibernating mobile phone: Dead storage as a barrier to efficient electronic waste recovery. Waste Management, 60, 521-533.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 15, 2016
Online Publication Date Jan 4, 2017
Publication Date Feb 1, 2017
Journal Waste Management
Print ISSN 0956-053X
Electronic ISSN 1879-2456
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 60
Pages 521-533
Keywords closed-loop, electronic waste, mobile phone, product-service system, sStock and flow, sustainability
Public URL
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