Fourteen years ago one percent of Australians subscribed to a mobile phone service, now we’re told that about 82% do. While not as high as some countries it is a significant number of ‘connected’ people, especially considering the rate of ‘churn’, as new model phones replacing old ones faster than you can say colour screen or 2 megapixel camera or 3G. (Every 18 months to 2 years is considered the local average.) Even though 52% of Australians are said to hang on to old phones and 23% give old ones away to friends or family, there is only 4% who actively recycle their unneeded phones. Yet, from 1999 through 2006 the Mobile Muster program, run by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) still collected 402 tonnes of the stuff. Roughly equating to 630,000 mobile phones handset, 2.3 million batteries, with half that tonnage being in accessories, like battery chargers. Sufficient to be the equivalent of filling a suburb house to the rafters. 3.21 tonnes of NiCad batteries and 1.46 tonne of NiMH batteries were exported for processing by SNAM in France, while 19 tonnes of lithium ion batteries are sent to Korean based company, Kobar Ltd for reprocessing during 2006. Residue plastics (mostly ABS) from handset casings and housings are processed locally by Australian Composite Technology, who uses the plastic to produce new composite plastic fence posts and pallets. The AMTA reckon that 90% of the materials in a mobile phone can be recycled. And this has some benefits - for instance, rather than mining 110 tonnes of ore they only need 1 tonne of handset circuit boards to extract 300 grams of gold. While the Mobile Muster website has heaps of intriguing information on phone recycling, it is a little coy on reused and refurbished handsets. Guess they want us to buy a new one! ::Mobile Muster.