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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are mobile phones harmful to the environment?
Why is re-using phones preferred to recycling ?
What happens to the phones that are reused?
How are the phones recycled?
What happens to the phone once it is returned?
Do I include my battery in returning my phone for recycling?
Can my SIM Card be recycled?
What will happen to any personal information left on the phone?
The return satchel says not to inlcude the charger. What do I do with the charger?
How will the donation to Clean Up Australia be spent?
Can I recycle landline or cordless phones?
How can Clean Up Australia help me organise a collection of mobile phones?


Why are mobile phones harmful to the environment?

Mobile phones are made up of many toxic substances. The elements contained in a mobile phone include arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc. These poisonous substances can leach from decomposing waste in landfill and seep into groundwater, contaminate the soil and enter the food chain. While these substances appear in a relatively small amount in a single mobile phone, consider the scale of the problem with 5.3 billion people worldwide (24.22 million in Australia)* using and disposing of mobile phones on average every 12-18 months.

Why is re-using phones preferred to recycling?

Avoidance is the first and most important environmental principal, particularly when it comes to waste. By re-using items such as mobile phones, you have avoided the need to produce a new one. Where phones cannot be re-used, recycling is an important step towards waste reduction. The energy and raw materials used to produce millions of new mobile phones contributes to CO2 emissions and global warming.

According to the Basel Convention and the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative (MPPI) guidance document published in November 2006 it is believed that "Re-use, directly or via repair or refurbishment is usually the preferable option over recycling and disposal from an environmental perspective. Re-use can extend product life and means less environmentally damaging extraction, less energy consumption and less waste. Re-use of second-hand equipment can also often mean a lower price for products, thus increasing accessibility for more people who might not otherwise be able to afford the product."

By re-using and recycling components of old phones, the overall environmental impact of this waste stream can be minimised.

 

What happens to the phone once it is returned?

All mobile phones collected and returned on behalf of Clean Up Australia are sent directly to our recycling partner, Aussie Recycling Program (ARP). At ARP they are scanned to record their identification number for tracking purposes, tested for functionality and sorted into functional and non-functional phones. The functional phones are reused and the non-functional phones are recycled.

What happens to the phones which are reused?

The phones which are still working are refurbished and sent for re-use in countries which can benefit from the lower cost of access to telecommunications including Pakistan, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Syria and Tonga.

When the phones are refurbished they are as good as new ones, which means the recipients of re-used phones are not only getting affordable access to communications, they are avoiding having to buy a new product first hand from a supplier. By re-using a phone, you are extending the life of that mobile phone by up to 5-7 years. 

How are the phones recycled?

The phones are sent to MRI, one of Australia's leading e-waste recyclers. They are separated into their different components, nearly all of which can be recycled. For example; the Printed Circuit Board (or 'PCB') contains copper, gold, lead, cadmium, silver and nickel. The gold and silver recovered can be made into jewellry. 300 grams of gold re-used saves mining 110 tonnes of gold ore.

Do I include my battery in returning my phone for recycling?

Yes, unless you can re-use them yourself or give to someone who can, you can return them for recycling. Please make sure it is secured within the phone. Mobile phone batteries contribute significantly to a device's environmental impact. 

Can my SIM Card be recycled?

Yes, there are components in a SIM card which can be recycled, so after you have removed any private information, you can return it with the phone.

What will happen to any personal information left on the phone?

You should remove any personal information on the phone before recycling it. If the phone is still working, the information is cleared when the phone is refurbished so personal information will not be disclosed to any other party.

The return satchel says not to include the charger. What do I do with the charger?

The charger's prongs can tear the plastic of the satchel, so we recommend not to include it. They can still be recyled through an e-waste recycler directly (find a list here) or speak to your local council as they sometimes organise free e-waste drop off days.

If you are using a Collection Box it is save to include the charger. But please limit to one charger per phone. If you have more chargers please contact an e-waste recycler directly (find a list here) or speak to your local council about a e-waste drop off day.

How will the donation to Clean Up Australia be spent?

A small donation (approximately $3) for every mobile phone returned through the Clean Up Mobile Phones goes directly to funding our campaigns to clean up, fix up and conserve the environment.

Can I recycle landline or cordless phones?

They can be recycled, however, they cannot be recycled through the Clean Up Mobile Phone Campaign. Any appliance with plugins can be recycled through an e-waste recycler. In these cases a charge may be incurred due to the amount of labour required to detatch the various parts. Click here for a list of e-waste recyclers, or alternatively speak to your local council as they sometimes organise free e-waste drop off days.

How can Clean Up Australia help me organise a collection of mobile phones?

As well as providing individual return satchels, Clean Up Mobile Phones can help you organise a large collection. We can provide information, advice and materials to help you promote your collection to staff or customers. We can also provide the means to return a large amount of phones. Please refer to the “Clean Up Mobile Phone” section on by clicking here. Alternatively you can call 02 8197 3400 or email cleanup@cleanup.org.au for more information.

 
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