Mobile Phone Recycling

The Federal Minister for the Environment, in Australia, last week announced he is keen to seen mobile phone recycling increased significantly. As he said “It really is appallingly low at the moment." By this he must mean that while 7 million handsets are sold each year, only 400,000 have been recovered for recycling since 1999. Well known as early adopters of new technology, all Australians (except for maybe pre-schoolers and prison inmates) must own phones, as apparently 75% of the total population have one and upgrade to some newer, shinier model every 18 – 24 months! Industry is aware of the problem, with the four main service carriers and a dozen of the handset manufacturers, setting up an industry recycling scheme. 1600 recycling bins can be found in retails stores and office around the country. These collect handsets, batteries and accessories to recover toxic metals like nickel and cadium and precious metals such as gold and copper, none of which deserve to end up in landfill. (Yet even the extraction of these elements is not without its own issues. Many of the batteries are shipped to France, where they end up in a furnace that needs to heated to 1,200oC.)

A levy is applied to all new phones to cover the cost of the recycling service. Still you have to wonder at the perceived ‘need’ inherent in such product churn. Surely people don’t upgrade their landline phones every 18 months? Seems to be a high quotient of fashion and fad involved in this dilemma. The first question in any responsible design or purchasing decision is: does the product fulfill a genuine need? Via ::ABC News online [by WM]

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