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World Phone Amnesty: A Global Call for Mobile Sustainability Launches at SXSW Sydney

Kingfisher is proud to launch World Phone Amnesty, a bold new global initiative designed to encourage the planet’s 6.92 billion smartphone users to help keep more phones in circulation for longer and reduce carbon impacts of the production of new mobile phones by giving their phones a second - and even third - life.

Speaking at the inaugural SXSW Sydney conference, Kingfisher co-founder Georgiann Reigle proudly unveiled her company’s vision to put 5.3 billion unused mobile phones back into the circular economy. She was joined on the panel by global change-makers who share her passion for the benefits of a circular economy: Andy Ridley, CEO of Earth Hour and Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef; Mike Smith, the single-use plastic warrior from Zero Co; along with moderator Vanessa Liell from sustainability creatives Rethink Everything.

“Today most premium mobile phones are all made to last for seven or eight years,” Reigle told the panel at The Mobile Revolution: Your Role in Powering Our Planet's Future discussion.

“But most of the phones we use, we only use for two or three years and then they end up in a drawer or in landfill. When actually what we could do with them is create multiple life cycles.

“If we can create multiple lifetimes for each phone, so that the usable life is seven or eight years long, then - because 83% of carbon emissions happen at manufacture and during the first year of usage - we’re minimising the carbon impact overall and maximising the useful life of each phone.

“So what we are focussed on doing at Kingfisher is driving each mobile phone to have multiple lifetimes so it is utilised for the full seven to eight years.”

Reigle said the next-gen mobile phone company’s mission with its World Phone Amnesty is to ensure 100% of mobile phones are refurbished, recycled and become part of the circular economy thereby transforming the way people buy, own and trade-in their mobile devices.

“It’s simple, from today, when you buy a new phone, hand in your old one to give it a new life,” Reigle said and pointed the audience to the www.WorldPhoneAmnesty.com website where people can see the impact their device will have by keeping it in circulation for longer and its potential value if they were to trade it in.

Reigle shared Kingfisher’s game-changing global sustainability initiative will give carriers and their customers greater value and choice while tackling the issue of disposability and waste.


Speaking on what makes for a successful model to drive change at scale Ridley highlighted: being able to see the effect that you're having, great creative, ability to be radical and commercialisation.

“The reason why I am interested in this particular project - the World Phone Amnesty - is because one of the things about conservation is, it is based on a charity model,” said Ridley.

“And when I look at the charity model of conservation, which I have been working in for years and years, I am getting to the point where I am wondering, how in heaven’s name are we going to get the scale that we actually require if it isn’t commercially driven?

“I think it's got to be simple, yet you've got to see an advantage in it yourself, so an advantage to your community. So if you're handing in a phone, what can you see? What happens when thousands or millions of people do it? So that's an important thing. Same with the reef. If you're helping, can you see what the difference is that you're making?

“You've got to be a bit radical. You've got to be challenging some systems. And I think that gives it that edge. Yeah, and finally, probably would be great creative that reinforces what you're doing.


“So projects like the World Phone Amnesty have to work because we must have massive scaleable change really, really quickly.

“So I am wondering what we (Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef) can learn from what you do (at Kingfisher) that we can start to apply to a conservation side of the equation.”

Zero Co’s founder Mike Smith agreed that for any new sustainability initiative to succeed there must be a for profit model to back it.

“I am pretty new to sustainability and haven’t been in the game as long as Andy, but hearing you say you’re learning about the challenge of the charity-based model to do good in the world was kind of the original insight I had when I started ZeroCo.”

Smith started his zero waste home cleaning products company after spending 18 months travelling the world with his wife living in a tent and was “blown away” by the amount of plastic he saw on that trip.

“I decided to do something about it when I came home. And the whole business model was built on how do we reduce single use plastics in peoples homes and then use the funds from the sale of those products to go and do ocean clean ups?” said Smith, who, in the past three years, has stopped 300 million plastic water bottles of rubbish going into landfill and pulled almost 10million water bottles worth of rubbish out of the ocean.

“From day one, I said I wanted to solve this problem but I don’t want to be relying on someone else’s money to do that, so I would be beholden to somebody else. I wanted to have some control over it. I wanted to build a for profit company but contribute funds from every single sale to fund ocean clean up projects.”


Reigle said the World Phone Amnesty is custom-designed to trigger behavioural change at a global level as Kingfisher partners with telcos, like Telstra in Australia with their Upgrade & Protect service which has “driven a 15X increase in the return rate of devices in Australia”.

“What Kingfisher is doing with those return devices is we operate Belong second life stores, a sub-brand of Telstra, and Belong resells and recirculates very high quality second-life devices that create that second use cycle,” said Reigle, who encouraged the audience to think about choosing to buy a second-life phone and reap the savings.

“We believe that carrier and consumers deserve a better mobile experience. One that’s simple, accessible, friction-free and delivers superior, sustainable impact and value.”

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Find out more about the impact handing in your old phone could make

And how you could help reduce the amount of mobile phones that end up in landfill every year.

Visit World Phone Amnesty