LONDON (AP) -- A British company launched a program Tuesday to recycle some of the 15 million mobile phones and phone accessories discarded here every year.
The plan is part of an effort to keep phones from clogging landfills when owners upgrade to new models. A European Union directive makes phone producers and distributors responsible for taking back and recycling old handsets and accessories by 2004.
"Over 15 million consumers upgrade their phones with accessories such as batteries and chargers each year, which equates to 1,500 tons of potentially hazardous landfill every year," said Gordon Shields, chief executive of Shields Environmental, which is running the program, dubbed Fonebak.
Britain's five main mobile phone operators -- O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone -- pledged to work with Shields, as did the Dixons Group, which includes the electronics chains Dixons, Currys, The Link and PC World.
The government also said it would cooperate.
"The fact that the mobile phone industry in the U.K. has worked together to develop Fonebak demonstrates a responsible commitment to the environment and sets the standard for the mobile phone industry the world over," said environment minister Michael Meacher.
Shields will fund the program itself and expects to cover its costs from selling the used phone parts. It will also return some money to the phone service providers, which could give discounts on new handsets to customers who turn in their old ones.
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