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Towards a circular economy in South Africa:
what are the constraints to recycling mobile phones?

Click this link to download Peter Desmond’s 35-page research report


There are limited amounts of non-renewable resources which we are using to make everyday products. In addition, developments in electronic devices have resulted in increasing amounts of waste.

This paper identifies, in the context of recycling mobile phones (cellphones) in South Africa, the constraints which inhibit progress towards the creation of a circular economy where waste is considered a resource.

Published literature and semi-structured interviews are used to identify these constraints and examples proposed of how the constraints can be overcome through changes to legislation, policy, infrastructure, financial incentives and consumer behaviour. Such changes will require all key stakeholders to work in collaboration to recover the valuable resources and reduce waste.

Chapter 1 – Introduction
1.1 The Problem
1.2 Linear and Circular Economies
1.3 Research Question
1.4 Mobile Phones
1.5 South Africa
1.6 Relevance to International Development
1.7 Structure of the paper

Chapter 2 – Definition of Terms
2.1 Linear Economy
2.2 Circular Economy
2.3 Recycling

Chapter 3 – Methodology
3.1 Secondary Sources
3.2 Primary Resources
3.3 Framework for Analysis of Constraints

Chapter 4 – Constraints Identified in the Literature Review

Chapter 5 – Constraints Identified in the Primary Research Interviews

Chapter 6 – Overcoming Constraints

Chapter 7 – Conclusion

Appendix I – Questions Asked in Research Interviews

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