What we do with our old and broken phones is an ongoing problem that Australians continue to neglect. Disposal as well as hoarding of mobile devices is bad for the environment and many consumers are just simply unaware of this issue.

The transfer of mobile phones and accessories into our landfills can be dangerous because of the concentration of toxic metals such as lead, nickel, cadmium, manganese, lithium, mercury,  arsenic, copper, and zinc that mobile phones are made of. These metals do not degrade into the environment and accumulate to reach toxic levels over time.

According to the AMTA, there are approximately 16 million old, broken and unused mobile devices being kept in homes and offices around Australia. Breaking down these materials from old mobile phones and recycling them for other purposes reduces the demand for natural resources, reduces energy use and future greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling or selling an old mobile phone instead of throwing it away in the trash can therefore help create a more sustainable future.

Copper, gold, silver, zinc and platinum are just some of the recyclable metals in mobile phones. These metals are becoming increasingly rare and require vast amounts of resources to mine and extract. 90% or more of the raw materials used in mobile phones can be recuperated. According to MobileMuster, “If the 16 million units stashed around the country was recycled, the recycled materials would amount to 3.2 million aluminium cans, 160,000 plastic fence posts, and save enough greenhouse gases to take 5,000 cars off the road indefinitely.

”The average user will use their mobile phone for 18-24 months before upgrading to a newer model. According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), Australia has over 30 million mobile services  (June 2014). Many mobile phone users simply keep their devices due to sentimental value, fear of losing important data or simply lack of knowledge on how to sell their phone safely. 

MobileMuster, a non-for-profit government program, provides a service to dispose of your phone in an environmentally safe manner. There are also websites where you can sell your mobile. Recommerce (reverse commerce) websites as they are known, are becoming an increasingly popular place for ordinary people to dispose of their old mobile phones because of the monetary incentives and convenience they provide. At Greener Mobile, they will factory reset your phone, so you need not worry about having your information being stolen. Whilst disposing old mobile phones is paramount, so is purchasing second hand phones. You can buy second hand devices from a trustworthy second hand phone store instead of buying a brand new one. Let's not take this world for grant, we can do a lot of good by just recycling or selling our mobile phones.


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