How old is my mobile?

Posted April 18, 2017

By Spyro Kalos, Manager Recycling, MobileMuster.

As the Manager of MobileMuster I take environmental and social issues seriously.

I often get asked what mobile device I am using, maybe with the expectation that I should be using the original Nokia 3310 or some other vintage item. That certainly brings new meaning to extending the life of your mobile and avoiding waste.

Is it such a bad thing, or something to frown upon for using the latest mobile technology? After all there is much evidence to show that the latest designs reflect very high levels of eco-design and life-cycle thinking. Thinner design and improved battery chemistry highlight the sustainability benefits of contemporary design.

I have spent most of my working career in the mobile telecommunications industry. The ever-changing technology, has been a key reason for my choice to work in the industry and to promote the wider benefits of a mobile-enabled Australia.

I remember the first mobile I had in the early 90s that had the capability to make calls and send text messages, and of course who can forget the ability to play snake. That was it. Mobile phones have come a long way since the early 90s. Now more so than ever they offer us a way to stay connected and be productive on many levels. Smartphones do more than just calling and texting; we use mobiles in many aspects of our lives including banking, emails, social media, web browsing, photography, video entertainment, gaming and the list grows.


If I was using the 17 year old Nokia 3310, then its capability is slowly coming to an end. The original Nokia 3310 operates on the 2G network which is being switched off in Australia by September 2017 to make way for network technology that has the capability to handle our appetite for more data and increased traffic. Anyone on the 2G network will need to upgrade their handset to at least a 3G capable device. The humble mobile has evolved over the years to such an extent that its original purpose is becoming defunct. Consumer research tells us that more than ever, less calls are being made and we are seeing a shift to messaging through many different formats and apps, including text messaging, emails and instant messaging such as Whatsapp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Without a smartphone our ability to connect and communicate is reduced. Using the latest mobile technology gives us the accessibility and functionality to stay connected in a positive way. But what impact does mobile phone evolution have on the environment?

Let’s think about this – in the 90s when I was using my 2G handset, I also had a phone at home, a camera, a computer, alarm clock, media player, CDs and so on. However since the introduction of smartphones, my mobile now performs the role of these separate devices in one single device. No other product has allowed the convergence of technology more than mobile phones in reducing the need of multiple products. With this convergence we also see various environmental benefits including materials conservation and efficiency, battery innovation and greater commitment from carriers and handset manufacturers to be responsible product stewards


And this technology continues to evolve. How long will it be before credit cards and wallets are replaced by mobile phone technology? Even today your smartphone can replace the many remotes you have to manage your TV or even functions in the home like the lights or opening and unlocking doors. These types of examples are all part of the smart home and Internet of Things where the focus is on meeting social demand and creating functional value that benefits individuals and society. Smart use of technology helps to create time to do other things. Currently in Australia the latest network technology operates on 4G, the “G” standing for fourth generation, with a lot of noise on the move to 5G which is around the corner. With the future of 5G comes greater capacity to meet our appetite for data, increased network speeds and reduced latency. The next generation of mobile technology will continue the convergence of devices and bring us new benefits to how we work, live and play

As mobile phone technology and associated services evolve, MobileMuster will continue to play the role of recycler for end of life mobile phones, along with their batteries, chargers and accessories. MobileMuster has been working closely with the major network providers on educating their customers on how they can responsibly recycle their 2G devices through the program.  


It is also important to note that many of us are holding onto our mobile phones for longer. Independent research conducted annually and commissioned by MobileMuster highlights that 49% of Australians are keeping their mobile phones for longer than 2 years. The ability to upgrade software on your mobile phone reduces the need to upgrade as often. Australians are also becoming more savvy when it comes to managing their old mobiles once they have upgraded. Our research shows an increase in the number of people passing on their old mobiles to friends and family or selling them to fund the purchase of a new device.

Regardless of what mobile phone you use, they are all highly recyclable. MobileMuster is achieving material recovery rates of 98% which highlights the sustainability benefits of ensuring we keep mobiles out of landfill. We use a manual dismantling process, as opposed to shredding, and this produces less contamination and high recovery rates. Once the mobiles are dismantled they are further processed for resource recovery to extract materials that can be reused in the supply chain for the manufacture of new products.

Instead of seeing technology as a problem beyond our control, we need to be part of the solution as responsible users. Everyone has a role to play when it comes to managing their old devices. Of course it is vital to ensure that working mobiles are reused if safe to do so, and that they are responsibly recycled when they reach end of life. 

Today there are more options available to us which include passing them on or selling them, to recycling them with MobileMuster when they are no longer wanted or needed.

So what mobile handset do I use? Unashamedly I use one of the latest Android devices. But I constantly look at ways to reduce my overall environmental footprint. Using public transport, riding a bike to work, choosing Fair Trade products, and reducing meat consumption are my personal tips and how I contribute to living more sustainably. It’s about choices and tailoring your lifestyle and priorities is what counts.

Note: If you or anyone you know is unsure if they need to change their mobile handset due to the shutdown of the 2G network, then you will need to contact your relevant carrier for more information.

This article was first published in Inside Waste and is republished here with permission from Mayfam Media.