What do you do with your mobile phone when it breaks down or you are ready to upgrade?   It is estimated that 12 million or more mobile phones sit unused in cupboards or drawers in Australia. Do you have any? If you do, why not recycle them?

According to WWF Australia “About 90% of your mobile phone can be recycled and used to create new products. A survey of phone owners found that about 4% of mobile phone owners currently recycle their phone. While 4% may not sound like a lot – and it would certainly be great if more people did it! – this will stop around 55 tonnes of mobile phone material from ending up at the garbage dump each year.”

Clean up Australia have posted research on their website concerning the toxicity of mobile phone components.

This was alarming to me, I hadn’t even thought about whether my mobile contained anything poisonous or hazardous to my health.  My focus is always on the radiation levels from use, not the phone itself so this was a big surprise to me.

Apparently if a mobile phone is not recycled but instead dumped in landfill the Clean Up Australia site states  “poisonous substances  can decompose and seep into the soil and groundwater; affecting the food chain. Moreover, these chemicals can also cause you personal harm! Even in small amounts, hazardous chemicals inside mobile phones can cause environmental contamination because like plastic bags and styrofoam, they cannot be easily broken down and can stay in the environment for an indefinite amount of time.”

These are the substances inside your mobile and what they can initiate:

Brominated flame retardants

  • Used to prevent fires occurring within mobiles yet highly flammable themselves.
  • Hormone disruptors and can cause cancer and complications in pregnancy.
  • Can trigger learning disabilities and behaviour problems.
  • Banned substance in some European countries.


  • Poisonous heavy metal substance known to cause lung and prostate cancer.
  • Toxic to the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, respiratory, cardiovascular and hormonal systems.
  • The 7th most dangerous substance known to mankind.


  • Can damage almost every organ in the human body, particularly the central nervous, immune and cardiovascular system.
  • Can cause decreased mental ability, developmental delays, behavioural disorders and reproductive defects.


  • Can cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs and can irritate the nose and throat.
  • Dangerous when exposed to water (present in most landfills).
  • Can burn creating underground fires which are difficult to extinguish.


  • Recognised developmental toxin and suspected hormone disruptor.
  • Known to pollute water and accumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms such as fish. Harmful when fish is consumed by humans.

But wait, it gets worse!  According to the Jane Goodall Foundation http://www.janegoodall.org.au I have copied the information direct from the site as I wanted to get every detail correct, this information needs to get out there – please talk about this!  “The western worlds reliance on mobile phones is known to be directly linked to the accelerating demise of at least 10 of Africa’s primate species, including the Eastern Lowland Mountain Gorilla. Eighty percent of the world’s coltan reserves are located in Africa, with the majority of the deposits located within the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the same location that hosts some of our world’s last remaining primate populations and the mining of this metallic ore is causing catastrophic impacts on endangered wildlife species such as the Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) and the Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri). Coltan, short for columbite tantalite, is the principal source of tantalum, a rare and valuable metal in huge demand in today’s high technology industries.

Coltan is used to coat the capacitors in mobile phones, and despite the fact that it is illegal to mine for Coltan in the Congo, the mining continues on a large scale and coltan can fetch as much as $400 a kilogram. The mining of this commodity within the Congo River Basin, is contributing to forest loss and unrest in the region, and is accelerating the loss of Mountain Gorillas at an alarmingly fast rate.”

So now, like me, you are convinced that recycling your old phone is the best and only option for a healthy planet (apart from giving it to friend to use that is).

You have several options when it comes to recycling, basically

(1) donate it outright to one of the many fantastic organisations in Australia that are determined to make a difference – like Clean Up Australia or the Mobile Muster program.  Via http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/Campaigns/what-can-i-do.html you can donate your phone at no cost and you don’t have to travel anywhere, just register and a pre-paid satchel will be sent to you to enable you to donate at no cost to you or visit the mobile muster program http://www.mobilemuster.com.au/; or

(2) donate it to Aussie Recycling Program  http://www.arp.net.au ARP also have a prepaid mailer system to enable donation at no charge but you can select a charity to receive the proceeds from the sale of your recycled  mobile, or to the Jane Goodall foundation and the proceeds will go direct to her conservation initiatives http://www.janegoodall.org.au Yes, that’s right when a mobile is recycled the components are actually worth something so you can select an organisation to receive the  proceeds- places like Australia Zoo, Children’s Charities, Cancer Support Centres (there is a very long list of who you can select from on the ARP website); or

(3) recycle the phone through either  http://www.money4mobiles.com.au/ or http://www.mazumamobile.com.au/ and keep the proceeds yourself.  I should note that money4mobiles allows you to donate part of your sale to charity and keep part for yourself if you so desire.

So there you have it, no real reason not to recycle your mobile phone, no driving to a recycling depot, no cost to you and it could even allow you to support your charity of choice or make a little extra cash to buy yourself a nice eco gift.

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2 Comments on Green Tip: Recycle your old mobile phone

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