Closing the loop: The little mainboard that could!

Originally published at: Closing the loop: The little mainboard that could! - Fairphone

Allow us to tell you a little story. The story of the little mainboard that could.

A couple of months back, we received an old Fairphone 3 through our reuse and recycle program (aka the R&R program), one that had been lovingly used for almost four years at the time. After the phone had been dismantled at our repair center we found that both the top module and the mainboard were still in perfect working condition. As luck would have it, we had just received another Fairphone 3 that required a working mainboard. And so began the mainboard’s new journey, helping to extend the life of a second device. When that device eventually came back to us, not only did we get a bounty of more working spare parts, but we also saw the recycled mainboard was still functioning well, making it a viable candidate for yet another repair. In 2024, we’re happy to report that both the mainboard and the device that it is now in are still out there, working perfectly well. Three smartphones, one mainboard. That’s the power of reuse and recycling.

Taking repairability to the next level – and then doing it again.

This is just one of many examples that pop up through our reuse and recycle program. Your old phone is a veritable treasure trove of spare parts and resources, things that go a long way in repairing other phones and making new ones, without taxing the planet further. We have successfully extended the life of so many smartphones by recycling spare parts that are in optimum condition. It is something that underscores our Fair Circularity approach as a tech company, something we openly share with our partners and customers, and something we are very proud of. After all, why would you throw something away when it is working perfectly well?

Through our R&R program, we accept not just Fairphones, but also other brand’s phones as well. You can check the eligibility of your phone on our website and request a quote for its current market value. Accordingly, we will issue you an equivalent Fairphone Gift Card. Keep in mind that some phones might have zero market value, so you will not get a gift card. Recycling it with us will remain free, though – pro tip – you’ve probably got options near you that would save on transport emissions. For non-Fairphones that have reached their end-of-life, we extract the precious raw materials inside them. Non-Fairphones that are still in working condition are handed over to a partner, who refurbishes and resells them.

This brings us to the old Fairphones we receive. Over the years, we have gotten back Fairphone 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s, which are then added to our repair stock. Currently, with the Fairphone 3, with parts running low on stocks, the R&R program has become a valuable pool for working spare parts. A device can be dismantled as many times as we need, as long as it potentially has a valuable spare part waiting inside. From top modules and speaker modules to display and mainboards, the number of parts coming out is staggering. Just last year alone, we recovered around 16000 parts in good and not-so-good conditions! Of course, we aim to do even better this year.


Old phones aren’t the only thing that we take back. We also have a spare parts take-back program, through which we accept old top and bottom modules, camera units, and back covers. No batteries though, because of safety concerns. Since October 2023, we also accept Fairphone 3 displays, one of the rarer working spare parts we come by in our R&R operations. We have been requesting customers who buy a new Fairphone 3 display to ship in their old displays, offering €25 in return, no matter the condition of the old display. When the number of displays we collect crosses a certain threshold, we send them back to our factories for repairs. The first lot of displays that we sent across have been repaired and are making their way back to us, while a second lot is currently waiting to be shipped out. We now want to slowly expand this program to other countries apart from France and Germany and also include Fairphone 4 and 5 displays in the mix.

In short, if you have an old device lying about or spare parts that you aren’t using, send them back to us. What better way to celebrate Global Recycling Day? The planet will thank you for it.

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To me, this is one of the most insightful and motivating Fairphone blog articles in quite a while. So far I used to habitually reduce the program to recycling only and always thought hardly anything was ever reused, repaired or refurbished (or even in a condition to enable that in the first place). Now you’re providing some very encouraging examples to illustrate what you actually do and some promising updates here (expanding the program to FP3 displays, send back incentives, looking to expand this beyond France and Germany).

Thank you, this is very encouraging! :clap:

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Thanks for the post.
I wonder about the times though: The post says that “a couple of years back” a Fairphone 3 was dismantled that had been used “almost four years” at that time. As the Fairphone 3 was launched in August 2019, four years later was 2023 which is not “a couple of years back”. Does the story talk about a prototype or is just an imaginary story?

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Anyone wanting to return FP3 parts, the yellow return label button might escape your attention at first sight (deliberately posting only German and French screenshots here):

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Or it’s about a Fairphone 2, not 3.
Or the story was prepared for later and accidentally went live on the website several years early :person_shrugging: .

Eagle Eye Badge for @user02, please.

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yikes - good spot! That’s on me, missed that one during editing. It should say “a couple of months back”, of course. Thanks for flagging. Corrected it.

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Cool story. So, someone had their Fairphone repaired, and a few months later gave it back? Weird. But with a happy end, anyway.

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