The shocking number of phones waiting to be recycled – how many of them are yours?

By Rachael Ridley 1 March 2021

We tend to hold onto items we see as valuable, like mobile phones. And that makes sense – we paid good money for our mobiles, so we’re not just going to throw them away! But how many of us are storing broken phones that will never be used again?

According to MobileMuster, there are five million broken or no-longer-working mobile phones going to waste in drawers, cupboards and storage boxes across Australia. Each one contains valuable materials such as gold, silver and copper that could be recycled and made into new products, reducing the need for us to extract them from nature.

MobileMuster’s Go for Zero challenge aims to recycle every broken or unused phone in Australia. We need your help to make it a success! Recycle your old, broken or unused mobile phones to give the valuable materials inside new life.

Here’s how you can do your part to go from 5 million to zero.

How do I recycle my mobile phone?

MobileMuster recycles all mobile phone components free of charge. That includes all brands of handsets and their batteries, chargers and accessories. 

There are a few ways you can recycle your old phone:

  1. Find your closest collection point and drop it off for free. There are 3,500 collection points across the country including most Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, Samsung and Officeworks stores.

  2. Mail it to MobileMuster. You can pick up a free recycling mail satchel from Australia Post or order one from MobileMuster

  3. Organisations can sign up to be a collection point or support the Go for Zero challenge by encouraging their staff and community to get involved. Visit Go for Zero to register and download a free starter kit. 

Why is recycling our old mobile phones important?

Mobile phones are made up of plastics and metals that can be recovered and turned into new products like jewellery and fence posts. When mobile phones are thrown away and sent to landfill, these valuable materials go to waste. When we hold onto our broken mobile phones, we hoard resources that could be used to make something new. 

Recycling these materials prevents ‘virgin’ or new resources (like metals or oil to make plastic) from being extracted from the ground, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling 50,000 mobiles saves 99 tonnes of mineral resources and 19 tonnes of CO2 emissions from entering our atmosphere. To find out the positive impact you’re making from recycling your phone visit the MobileMuster Calculator.

How does MobileMuster’s recycling program work?

MobileMuster is accredited by the Federal Government and is the official product stewardship program of the mobile phone industry. That means the recycling scheme is voluntarily funded by all of the major handset manufacturers and network carriers to provide customers with the means to responsibly dispose of their old mobile phones. 

When MobileMuster receives your old phone, they recover more than 95% of the plastics and metals to be recycled into new products. None of them are refurbished or resold, meaning any data left on the phone is destroyed in the dismantling and recycling process. If you’re still nervous about your data, MobileMuster has some great how-to videos that will show you how to wipe the data from iPhone or Android before recycling. 

What if my mobile phone is still working?

At Planet Ark we follow the ‘waste hierarchy’, which prioritises reusing products before recycling them. If your phone is still working but you have no need for it, consider passing it onto a family member or friend to keep the product in use for as long as possible. You could also try selling it on one of the many online community marketplaces like Gumtree or donating it. If you can’t find a home for it, you can still recycle it. It’s better than it gathering dust in a drawer!

Learn more about or sign up for MobileMuster’s Go for Zero challenge. 

Rachael Ridley
Rachael manages the Business Recycling and Recycling Near You websites. Rachael joined Planet Ark in early 2019 after eight years working in media and publishing as a producer, editor and writer. Rachael loves using her skills in content creation and communication to instigate positive environmental behaviour change. Outside of work, Rachael enjoys spending time in nature, listening to music and patting dogs.