Moun­tains of mo­biles

Aus­tralian draw­ers are filled with un­wanted phones and dis­pos­ing of them is prov­ing a headache, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Ni­chol­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TECH -

AUS­TRALIANS are hoard­ing more than 22 mil­lion un­wanted mo­bile phones de­spite a na­tional ser­vice that will re­cy­cle the old hand­sets free of charge.

But the scheme, funded by the mo­bile phone in­dus­try, can­not af­ford to re­cy­cle them all and a prom­i­nent en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist has ac­cused the group of fail­ing to do as much as it should to col­lect and re­use the mas­sive stock­pile.

The re­cy­cling pro­gram, Mo­bile Muster, is run by the Aus­tralian Mo­bile Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions As­so­ci­a­tion and is funded by hand­set levies paid by phone mak­ers and the coun­try’s four ma­jor tel­cos.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing phone mak­ers in­clude Sam­sung, Mo­torola, HTC, LG and Sony, each of which pays 30c per phone while Tel­stra, Op­tus, Voda­fone and Vir­gin Mo­bile con­trib­ute 12c per hand­set.

Mo­bile Muster re­cy­cling man­ager Rose Read says the con­tri­bu­tions add up to a bud­get of $ 3.5 mil­lion a year, up to half of which goes on mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion.

But, at a rough cost of 68c per phone, the or­gan­i­sa­tion would need al­most $ 15 mil­lion to re­cy­cle Aus­tralia’s old phone stash.

Do Some­thing founder Jon Dee says the Mo­bile Muster pro­gram de­serves credit for rais­ing the pro­file of phone re­cy­cling in Aus­tralia and for es­tab­lish­ing more than 4500 col­lec­tion bins.

But he says it is un­der­funded and its ef­forts smack of a ‘‘ green­wash’’ in which the in­dus­try wants to be seen as en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly with­out fully fund­ing its ef­fort.

Fur­ther­more, Dee says there is a sim­ple way to raise phone do­na­tions in Aus­tralia: send an SMS mes­sage to each phone user once or twice a year dur­ing peak phone up­grade times.

‘‘ The mo­bile phone in­dus­try should be the lead­ing in­dus­try when it comes to re­cy­cling rates be­cause they are the only in­dus­try that has contact de­tails for ev­ery cus­tomer,’’ Dee says.

‘‘ They look like they’re do­ing some­thing but if they’re re­ally se­ri­ous they would send an SMS mes­sage to ev­ery­one. My chal­lenge to them is to stop talk­ing about this and text ev­ery­one in the lead­ing sales pe­riod, when ev­ery­one is go­ing into Tel­stra and Op­tus stores, and give them a re­minder.’’

Cur­rently, Mo­bile Muster re­cy­cles less than 10 per cent of Aus­tralia’s mo­bile phones.

Since June 2005, the scheme has tracked ship­ments of 53.19 mil­lion phones into Aus­tralia and has re­cy­cled 4.17 mil­lion mo­bile phones and phone bat­ter­ies – just 7.8 per cent of the to­tal.

Read says Mo­bile Muster stops about half of all dis­carded mo­bile phones go­ing to land­fill.

‘‘ Roughly 80 per cent of peo­ple keep hold of their phones,’’ she says.

‘‘ We reach half of the 20 per cent who don’t. All those phones stashed away at home aren’t avail­able for us to re­cy­cle. Peo­ple don’t want to give them up.’’

Aware­ness of mo­bile phone re­cy­cling has risen since the scheme was launched, how­ever it now sits at 84 per cent.

Just 64 per cent of mo­bile phone mak­ers par­tic­i­pate in the Aus­tralian pro­gram – down from 90 per cent due to Ap­ple’s pop­u­lar­ity and its de­ci­sion to go it alone on phone re­cy­cling.

The US firm of­fers free re­cy­cling of any mo­bile phone through its web­site, though Read says it does not ac­tively pro­mote the scheme.

Ap­ple also does not re­lease lo­cal re­cy­cling fig­ures, though world­wide it aims to re­cy­cle 70 per cent of the weight of its prod­ucts sold seven years ear­lier. Read says Ap­ple’s re­fusal to join the Aus­tralian scheme is ‘‘ un­for­tu­nate’’.

‘‘ It would be great if they could join be­cause it would add a lot more weight to the pro­gram and we would achieve a lot more in terms of en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to re­cy­cle,’’ she says.

Mo­bile Muster plans to launch a new pro­mo­tion this month but Dee ar­gues con­tact­ing mo­bile phone own­ers di­rectly would be more suc­cess­ful.

‘‘ If they re­ally be­lieve no one is go­ing to bring phones in ( af­ter a text mes­sage re­minder), then they have noth­ing to worry about,’’ he says.

‘‘ If they are suc­cess­ful, it’s great for the en­vi­ron­ment.’’

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