Electrical retailer Comet today announced its new recycling initiative which could make use of nearly 90 million redundant mobile phone handsets.

Comet will distribute prepaid envelopes throughout its stores for people who wish to throw away their old phones in an environmentally friendly fashion.

"We hope this will provide customers and non-customers with an easy and convenient way to dispose of unwanted goods and that other stores will follow our example," said Scott Keiller, environment and public affairs manager at Comet.

The scheme is being launched almost two years before the EU WEEE directive comes into force. Under the directive, retailers and manufacturers will be responsible for recycling redundant electrical goods.

"Even when it is finalised, consumers' obligations under the WEEE directive may be difficult to enforce. We are simply trying to get people into the habit of disposing of goods safely," said Keiller.

Comet will pass the handsets on to environmental telecommunications firm XS Tronix which will be responsible for recycling them.

"Mobile phones obviously have a residual value and, for the scheme to continue, it is all about collecting enough of them," said Keiller.

Once received, the handsets will be broken down into their component parts, enabling plastics and rare metals to be removed and leaving remaining metal products to be disposed of safely.

The scheme is part of Comet's long-term commitment to recycling. Last year it set up recycling company Renew, which is responsible for disposal of all the firm's white goods.

"We have invested heavily in recycling over recent years and as a leading retailer of electrical goods we believe it is our responsibility to introduce an initiative which help to limit the impact of our businesses on the environment," added Keiller.

As yet, no other retailers have come forward with similar schemes.