What is ‘value’ and how can we capture it from the product value chain?

The mobile phone industry is based upon the rapid development of handsets and the high turnover of devices in order to drive sales. Phones are often used for shorter periods of time than their designed life and when discarded it is often through channels that result in lost resource. This unsustainable business mode places strain on resources and creates adverse environmental and social impacts. Through interrogation of a stocks and flows model, a product service system (PSS) for a small consumer electronic device, a mobile telephone is proposed. The points at which value may be extracted from the PSS are identified. A quantitative measure of value is proposed in order to allow the evaluation of the most appropriate time to extract it. This value is not solely monetary, but is derived from the combination of indicators which encompass environmental, economic and technological factors. A worked example is presented, in which it is found that the precious metals within the phone are the main determinants for value extraction. These metals are found in the printed circuit board, leading to a requirement to design phones for ease of extraction of these components in order to access the value within.