Insights into mobile phone use, reuse and recycling

Tue 29 Sep 2020

MobileMuster’s latest research report Insights into mobile phone use, reuse and recycling examines how Australians use, reuse and recycle their mobile phones, as well as the impact they have on the environment. Australians are early adopters of new and emerging technology and mobile phone penetration is high. While our mobile phones have become an integral part of our lives, it is important to reduce their environmental footprint.

We are thinking more about reusing and repairing their mobile phones. Similarly, there has been more interest in buying second hand, selling and trading in. MobileMuster has raised awareness and made recycling very accessible. Most people are now aware of mobile phone recycling and one in three have recycled. Explore the key trends to find out more.

Australians are holding onto their phones for longer

Increasingly we are using their mobile phones for a longer period of time and holding onto them until they are no longer working. Our research indicates that the average mobile phone replacement cycle has reached 30 months in Australia. Older Australians are more likely to hold onto their mobile phones for longer whereas younger Australians are more likely to upgrade sooner.

Reuse is on the rise

Reuse extends the use phase of products, thereby reducing environmental impacts. Mobile phones have a greater chance of being reused if they are sold or given away shortly after consumers have upgraded rather than being kept as a backup or stored at home. About one in four Australians can be characterised as a mobile phone reuser with most of us giving them to family members.

Younger Australians are embracing repair

The usefulness of a mobile can be extended and preserved through software upgrades and repair. We know that around 38% of Australians have repaired a mobile phone and there is a growing number of younger Australians extending the life of their phone this way. Our research shows that Australians are taking advantage of the repair options available to them, including independent repair shops, mobile phone manufacturer or network provider services to get their phones repaired.

1 in 3 are concerned about the data on their old phones

Just over one in three mobile users agree that the data stored on their unused phones will stop them from recycling, with over two-in-three concerned that someone could access and use their information. More people are citing data security as their reason for keeping their phone and avoiding recycling it. This was not a reason 15 years ago and reflects the vast amount of information that can now be stored on phones. This concern has increased from 31% of Australians in 2017 to 36% in 2020 worried about the data stored on their phones.

Number of phones in storage grows

Sixty two percent of Australians choose to keep one or more mobile phones just in case. Australians have come up with some pretty good reasons for holding on to old phones such as keeping them as a spare for backup, have not got around to it yet, not sure what to do and concerns about data security. The number of mobile phones in storage has grown over the past 15 years in Australia to a point where there are as many phones in storage as there are people in Australia. From the 24.5 million mobile phones being stored around the country a fifth of them, approximately five million, are broken and no longer working.

Incentives motivate recycling action

Offering consumers incentives inspires them to recycle. People must feel motivated, and the best motivations bundle environmental benefits with personal benefits, such as economic or charitable rewards. Without being incentivised, some Australians, are not interested in the effort it takes to recycle.

The work that MobileMuster does in educating Australians to recycle is reflected in the research with more and more mobile phone users looking to recycle their old technology. Spyro Kalos, Head of MobileMuster said “Educating more Australians on how to responsibly reuse and recycle their mobile phone will increase consumer participation and result in greater environmental benefits.”

About the research

This report is based on annual market research undertaken by IPSOS and commissioned by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA). AMTA has been analysing consumer attitudes towards mobile phone use, reuse and recycling for 15 years. The research provides critical intelligence in guiding and improving the performance of MobileMuster.

Download the report Mobile phone use, reuse and recycling