How can your old mobile save the planet?

Thu 3 Mar 2022

Leading Australian astrophysicist Professor Alan Duffy in his new role as Ambassador for MobileMuster is encouraging Australians to join MobileMuster’s nationwide challenge to Go for Zero in March 2022. The first target is those 4.2 million damaged and broken mobile phones lying forgotten in homes across Australia. While the mobile phones and their accessories don’t even work anymore, they represent a valuable stockpile of resources that can be recovered and reused.

Australian consumers are early adopters of new technology and on average update their phones every 2.5 years. So old phones tend to accumulate – in desk drawers, in a box in the garage or the cupboard in the spare room, along with their chargers, cords and other accessories. We stash them in case we need them again, or because we aren’t sure how to get rid of our personal data, and because we know we can’t just throw them in the bin.

Research shows there are 23.5 million old mobiles in Australia, and about 4.2 million of them are actually broken. Inside them are valuable components including metals such as gold, copper, silver and palladium. We go to extraordinary lengths to mine these precious resources from across the world and then ship them to giant factories to join assembly lines and then transport them again to their final markets before they end up in your hand. That’s a lot of energy, a lot of carbon, a lot of resources.

Alan Duffy explains how important it is that precious metals and other materials are recovered through recycling and then reused in new products. This is one of the principles of the circular economy.

 “One electronic device that almost every adult has is the smartphone. This has changed lives, societies, and economies. But when they are no longer of use, we throw these devices into a desk draw or cupboard. Literally letting all the materials and energy that have gone into making our devices go to waste. Extending the life of your phone and recycling when it reaches the end of its life is a first step in a circular journey that then never ends.”

When you take action and return that phone to MobileMuster for recycling, 95% of all materials are recovered and used again. It’s a fantastic outcome. And now that MobileMuster is 100% carbon neutral you know you are helping to reduce your carbon footprint too.

If all 4.2 million of those broken phones were recycled, we’d save 8,274 tonnes of mineral resources needing to be extracted from the ground. We’d also save 1,621 tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent of planning 42,000 trees. Taking part is easy for organisations this March by signing up to be a collection point and encouraging their local community to recycle.

Six easy tips on how every Australian can enact the 3 R’s (Reuse, Recycle and Repair) and Go for Zero March 2022:

  • Seasonal Cleanouts – make a time every few months to go through your things and see what can be recycled, repaired, re-gifted or reused. While going through those cupboards, collect your old mobile phones and accessories and drop them off at your nearest participating MobileMuster collection point or order a free mailing satchel. Going through your possessions and working out what is clutter will really make you value the things you love and hold dear.
  • Do Your Research – read up, listen to podcasts, ask an expert, inform yourself on the small acts we can all take to repair, reuse and recycle the things we own. Understanding where your item will end up once you’ve finished with it will help see its longer term uses and how it could be recycled.
  • Buy Consciously – think before you buy! Ask yourself do I need it? Look to buy products made with recycled materials and content. Find a retailer or manufacturer who is undertaking sustainable business practices such as recycling, responsible packaging, zero carbon emissions or are part of a product stewardship program.
  • Understand Your Impact – use the MobileMuster calculator to understand the environmental impact and benefits of your recycling –
  • Make Your Home, School and Business Greener – try going paperless where possible, use smart technologies to help manage electricity usage in the home, school or offline and power down devices when you’re not using them.
  • Have The Conversation – Talk to your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues about the importance of recycling, reusing and repairing and encourage them to take part in the Go for Zero challenge March 2022.