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Millions of old phones gathering dust in Australian homes

Are you the type to gift the latest smartphone to a loved one during the holidays? Next time, think again. New research by Australian collection scheme MobileMuster indicates that small gadgets like phones are most likely to be hoarded by consumers for years.

Around 45% of Australian citizens say they intend to recycle their old smartphone but MobileMuster says ‘only one in 10 people’ actually do so. It estimates there are 23 million unwanted mobile phones lying in drawers and cupboards across the country with around five million thought to be beyond repair.

90 tonnes recovered

Last year, Australia’s government-accredited mobile phone recycling programme collected 90 tonnes of mobile phones and accessories such as chargers and smart watches. However, this represents ‘just a small portion’ of the ‘hoarded’ e-scrap, the group urges.
Motivation to recycle used smartphones is low because consumers are still attached to them. They say they plan to give them to someone else but hold onto them mostly because dropping them off for recycling is considered inconvenient.
‘It’s clear that phones are not ending up in our general waste stream: they’re ending up in our homes,’ says MobileMuster manager Spyro Kalos. ‘But the value comes from recovering those resources, and so reducing the need to mine virgin materials.’

Recycle phones, save the oceans

Kalos stresses that up to 99% of resources used to create smartphones can be recovered for recycling. ‘We tend to shove our phone in a drawer in case we need it later, but in reality we never go back to it,’ he points out. ‘Maybe two-thirds of us do that.’

In a bid to boost recycling awareness, MobileMuster has partnered with non-profit Take 3 For the Sea. During January and February, every mobile phone that is recycled will help support the charity’s fight against ocean plastics.
‘The partnership will encourage people to recycle a mobile phone and by doing so it will help Take 3 for the Sea continue doing the great work they’re doing in reducing plastic pollution,’ Kalos explains.

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