An interactive butterfly made of old smartphones

Old smartphones turned butterflies in O2's recycling project

Old disused smartphones have gotten a new lease of life as artificial butterflies in O2’s recycling project.

The butterflies made entirely from old smartphones could interact and be controlled with new smartphones and tablets. Each butterfly has been mounted on a plinth and connected to a tablet that displays a phone number. If users ring the number shown on the tablet screen, the butterfly in question comes to life. Each of the robotic butterflies has been programmed differently and reacts in a distinct way.

"We wanted to give the 'old and forgotten' a new lease of life and showcase the fact that even the discarded can emerge as something new and beautiful, which is what up-cycling and O2 Recycle is all about,” said Chris Cairns, creative director of design company is this good?, which designed the butterflies for O2.

"We hoped that, by creating 'Social Butterflies', we would raise a smile and remind people that we can create moments of recognition and happiness out of products we have previously loved and now overlook. Each of these butterflies have their own little personality quirks so I'm looking forward to the members of the public starting up a conversation with them."

The butterfly’s reactions range from light shows, to lasers and flapping wings that consist of smartphone screens. The designers took inspiration from nature and spent hours and days in London’s Natural History Museum to get things right.

The project, part of O2’s Recycle Scheme, took seven months to be completed.

"We can see this project creating a type of 'butterfly effect'. As people experience this amazing recycled technology, we hope they will be inspired to regularly recycle their old devices. Many people don't realise that their old technology can have a second life,” said Bill Eyres, head of sustainability at O2.

"There's an environmental need to dig out old gadgets so they can be used again, rather than lying unused and unloved in a drawer. O2 Recycle offers a simple, sustainable way to recycle unused gadgets and receive a cash payment in return. We all have a role to play in making sure that old technology lives on even when we've finished with it."

Hardware from a range of different mobile phones has been used, with the designers taking inspiration from the different components found within each in order to apply it to a butterfly.

Marek Bereza, co-founder of is this good?, said: "We wanted to show people that their phones aren't junk after two years and they're actually quite valuable and quite beautiful. We've used lots of different bits of phones, just searching for the aesthetic qualities. One has a beautiful gold and green printed circuit board. Another one we used just SIM cards, cladding it like scales or feathers."

O2 hopes to place the butterflies in shop windows in UK stores in order to promote their recycling campaign, as well as give consumers the chance to interact with the robotic insects.

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