Over 95% of the materials in mobile phones can be recovered and used as raw materials for new products. This reduces the demand on natural resources and environmental contamination from landfill.
Mobile phones contain commercially valuable materials such as gold, silver, copper, nickel and plastics. They also contain some materials that would be hazardous to the environment if put into landfill, such as cadmium. Recycling unwanted mobile phones keeps these hazardous materials out of the environment and also reduces the need to extract more of our natural resources. Mobile phone recycling is a free national service, and in some cases can also raise funds for charitable organisations.
MobileMuster is the official recycling program of the mobile phone industry in Australia. It's a not-for-profit program, funded solely by its members who pay a levy on every handset imported into Australia. Workplaces can register for a collection bin.
There are also a number of organisations that run mobile phone recycling programs to help raise money for various charities. Mobile phones and their accessories are accepted.
What Happens When It's Recycled?
Unwanted mobile phones are recycled by separating them into components for resource recovery.
- Nickel is recovered from phone batteries for stainless steel production. Cobalt and cadmium from the batteries are reused to make new batteries.
- Circuit boards include small amounts of gold and silver that are reused in jewellery and other applications.
- Handset housings and casings include plastics that are shredded and used to make fence posts and pallets.
- Accessories contain plastics and metals that are shredded, sorted and then used to make new plastic or metal products.
The plastics are processed in Australia while the batteries and mobile phone circuits are processed offshore. When the components are extracted they are sold by recyclers to manufacturers for use as raw materials in the production of new products.