Nationwide survey: Hungarians keep a surprisingly high number of old mobile phones at home

Those returning their old handsets to Yettel are eligible for an NMHH subsidy of up to HUF 40,000 when buying a new mobile phone

63% of Hungarians keep unused mobile phones at home, and in the majority of cases there are several handsets in drawers that are more than 10 to 15 years old, according to Yettel’s latest nationwide survey. Many people don’t know what to do with their old handsets, or don't feel like dealing with them. Improperly stored electronic devices, however, can be a hazard to the environment. Yettel is now launching a large-scale campaign to collect old mobile phones and raise awareness of the importance of recycling. Some 2G- and 3G-enabled handsets will make their owners eligible for an NMHH subsidy of up to HUF 40,000 when buying a new phone.

Most people have an unused mobile phone at home

In its latest national survey[1], Yettel wanted to find out how common it was for Hungarians to store old, unused mobile phones and other electronic devices at home, and whether they are aware of the dangers of improper storage and recycling. The results show that the most common computing and mobile devices stored at home are mobile phones: six out of ten respondents have them.

Mobile phones are closely followed by battery chargers and cables (61%), then headphones and earphones (47%), video/CD/DVD players (42%), computers (39%), tape recorders and hi-fi sets (38%) as well as TVs and monitors (37%). Interestingly, not only old, outdated technologies but also relatively newer gadgets such as Bluetooth speakers (17%) or smart watches or fitness trackers (15%) are on the list of devices lying around in drawers. Only 6% of respondents said that they do not keep any of the above in their homes.

The fate of old mobile phones

The survey found that most people (61%) buy a new phone when the old one becomes unusable, that is, gets broken or lost, but many also buy a new phone when an otherwise functional device is very worn-out (45%) or lacks a necessary feature (42%).

60% of respondents have owned more than 5 phones to date, while 20% have owned 10 or more. Responses suggest that some of these handsets are simply put away when they are replaced. Nearly half (46%) of those who say they keep their old phones at home (63%) have 3 or more unused phones in their homes, and the age of the phones kept is 10 years old or more in nearly half (46%) of the cases, but a fifth (22%) of respondents have a phone that is more than 15 years old.

The survey also asked people why they keep their old handsets. The primary reason (56%) is to keep them as a backup, but many people are simply unsure about what to do with them (28%) or not feel like dealing with the issue (27%). Another reason cited often was that users are afraid of unauthorised access to their data stored on their phones (24%) and a surprisingly high number (23%) are emotionally attached to their old mobile handsets.

Unkept phones are usually given away (38%) or sold (23%). Only 14% choose to return the phone to an electronics store or operator to have it recycled. The proportion of those who throw their handsets away is relatively low (10%), and the results show that the majority are aware that mobile phones shouldn’t be put in the waste. Eight out of ten people know that used handsets shouldn’t be thrown away in the municipal waste bin and 66% of respondents don’t consider house clearance an appropriate way to get rid of their used phones either.

The safe disposal of old handsets is important also because they include hazardous substances that don’t cause any problem with proper use but can be dangerous if stored improperly or put into communal waste. An ageing battery, for example, may start leaking and releasing hazardous substances into the environment of which 55% of respondents are aware. In addition, mobile phones include valuable metals (gold, silver, copper and iron) that can be recovered through recycling, so they do not have to be re-mined in a costly and polluting way. Find out what happens to phones after recycling and why it is important in this video:

It’s time to have your old mobile phones recycled

Environmental consciousness is a key core value for Yettel. In this spirit, it offers its customers a range of solutions – such as e-invoicing, digital signatures and small SIM cards – to help them reduce their environmental footprint. In its latest campaign, it encourages users to help balance nature and return their used handsets to shops rather than keep them at home or put them into the waste. The returned handsets are going to be recycled by Yettel’s specialized partners. Under NMHH’s handset exchange scheme, they can get up to HUF 40,000 in subsidies in return for their old 2G- or 3G-enabled mobile phones when buying a new handset at Yettel starting from 18 July.

More information: és

[1] A nationwide survey commissioned by Yettel and conducted using Ipsos’ online panel, representative of gender, age, type of settlement and region, which was completed by 840 respondents between 1 and 6 July 2022.