Media Releases | 10th Feb, 2005

Mobile phones creating toxic time bomb

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Victoria is creating a toxic cocktail harmful to human and environmental health unless mobile phone recycling rates are dramatically improved, warned the state’s peak green group.

Environment Victoria urged the Government to introduce a $10 deposit on new mobile phones, which would be refunded when the phone was returned for recycling.

“The ballooning number of cheap handsets coming onto the market is encouraging a throw-away mentality that is threatening our quality of life. It’s short-term gain for long-term pain,” said Environment Victoria’s Zero Waste Campaign Director Jenny Henty.

She said mobile phones contained hazardous materials including arsenic, cadmium, lead and heavy metals that have been linked to cancer and a range of reproductive, neurological and developmental disorders.

“It is therefore crucial that dead mobile phones be kept out of landfill,” said Ms Henty. “The Government must force producers and retailers to be responsible for their defunct products or the poisonous affects will be felt for decades to come.”

Ms Henty said a $10 deposit on each mobile phone would effectively operate as an incentive for customers to trade-in when purchasing a new phone.

Around 12 million Australians own mobile phones and exchange them on average every 18-24 months. More than 95% of these are unaccounted for, and could end up in landfills.

Ms Henty said recycling rates were too low, with a voluntary scheme run by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) failing to target the millions of toxic batteries and handsets going to landfill.

“The mobile phone recycling scheme has only collected between 0.5%-3% of mobile phones sold to date, leaving more than 30 million at risk of unsafe disposal.

“AMTA has sucked millions of dollars from consumers via an industry levy on the false promise of collection and recycling. It has lost credibility. It’s time for Government to mandate refundable deposits.

“A visible deposit would be more effective than a hidden levy. With the voluntary take-back scheme not working, governments must now regulate for recycling and ban the toxic phones from landfill.”