Mobile telecommunication product stewardship scheme MobileMuster has released its 2019 Annual Report, to coincide with its 21st anniversary.
MobileMuster celebrated its 21st anniversary at The Mint in Sydney, with Telstra Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs and Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association Chair Jane van Beelen and Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister Trevor Evans.
MobileMuster Manager Spyro Kalos said the report examines the schemes performance in 2019, as well as the significant progress of the organisation over the last 21 years.
After 21 years of operation, MobileMuster is Australia’s oldest product stewardship scheme.
“The success of the program to date demonstrates how the industry can work together voluntarily to deliver social and environmental outcomes,” Mr Kalos said.
“We are committed to continuing to invest in the next generation of mobile phone users, educating them about the impact of their mobiles and how to act for a sustainable future.”
Since 1998, the program has collected and recycled nearly 1500 tonnes of mobile phones and accessories, including over 14 million handsets and batteries.
“Further, in this year alone, MobileMuster collected and recycled 84.1 tonnes of mobiles, their batteries, chargers and accessories and through the process, recovered metals, glass and plastics, averting 188 tonnes of CO2 emissions – the equivalent of planting 4840 trees,” Mr Kalos said.
Through the program’s recycling processes, over 95 per cent of the material from mobile phones and accessories is recovered and used to manufacture new products.
“With an estimated 25 million mobiles being stored by Australians, we hope to get more Australians recycling,” Mr Kalos said.
“In addition, we are working towards zero waste to landfill, that means no mobiles will be disposed of in the general waste stream.”
According to the report, MobileMuster has an industry participation level of 92 per cent, including Alcatel, Apple, Google, HMD Global (Nokia), HTC, Huawei, Microsoft, Motorola and Oppo.
Smartphone manufacturer Vivo Mobile has joined the mobile telecommunication industry’s recycling program and product stewardship scheme MobileMuster.
Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association Chief Executive Officer Chris Althaus said the program recovers over 95 per cent of the material in a mobile phone, which is then reused to manufacture new products.
“The mobile telecommunications industry is delighted to welcome Vivo Mobile to our world-class recycling program,” Mr Althaus said.
“Our members work together to ensure we keep old mobiles out of the general waste stream and recycle them in a responsible, secure and environmentally sound way, placing reusable commodities back into the supply chain.”
Vivo Mobile Chief Executive Officer Fred Liu said the company was excited to join the government accredited program, as it looks to enter the Australian market.
“Being part of this industry led initiative gives us great confidence that when our customers have finished using their smartphones along with any accessories, they will be recycled to the highest environmental standard,” Mr Liu said.
Since the MobileMuster program began in 1998, it has diverted more than 1400 tonnes of mobiles and accessories from landfill, including over 13 million handsets and batteries.
MobileMuster Manager Spyro Kalos talks to Waste Management Review about the recycling process for smartphones and their reuse potential.
With recycling across the board gaining significant attention due to China’s National Sword and resulting policy changes, public trust in the process has been challenged.
“Plastic not so fantastic”, a recent 60 Minutes report, further complicated matters by suggesting the public’s recycling efforts were being wasted on dubious resource recovery.
While waste industry associations say the report didn’t paint a full picture of the Australian recycling industry or its processes, public discussion around China’s National Sword policy continues.
MobileMuster, the federally accredited product stewardship program of the mobile phone industry, is focused on educating the public about the mobile phone recycling process to further confidence in the e-waste resource recovery market and increase mobile phone recycling.
It’s a significant goal given 89 per cent of Australians own a smartphone, according to a 2018 Deloitte Mobile Survey, and many hoard their devices.
Since the product stewardship program began in 1998, MobileMuster has collected and recycled over 1400 tonnes of mobile phone components including handsets and their batteries, chargers and accessories.
To date the program has recycled over 13 million handsets.
MobileMuster works to provide free mobile phone recycling in Australia and is voluntarily funded by all major handset manufacturers and network carriers such as Apple, Google, Telstra and Samsung.
MobileMuster’s 2018 Annual Report estimates that e-waste is growing three times faster than any other waste stream in Australia. It is no surprise then that MobileMuster Manager Spyro Kalos estimates 25 million unused mobile phones are currently sitting dormant in Australian homes.
“While we know less than two per cent of mobile phones are being thrown into the general waste stream, we need to work to reduce the number of mobiles lying dormant in storage,” Spyro says.
“There is certainly value in recovering the materials inside those phones to reduce wasted resources.”
According to Spyro, what many people don’t know, or rather don’t think about, is their smart phone contains untapped precious metals and raw material, most of which has been mined.
Additionally, smartphones contain many of the materials the waste industry and public at large are accustomed to thinking about, plastic, glass and aluminum, making them full of untapped reuse and recycling potential.
“I am a strong believer in transparency. When someone recycles their mobile phone with MobileMuster, I want them to know exactly what happens and how the various components are being processed,” Spyro says.
“We need to increase the trust of consumers because without their participation, the circular economy breaks down. The industry has an obligation to all its stakeholders to ensure best practice is used when collecting and processing products.”
MobileMuster’s recycling partner is TES, a global electronic waste recycler and lifecycle management service. The two groups have been working together for six years.
According to Spyro, they work to maximise recovery rates and ensure all mobile components are correctly processed.
“Through our recycling process, over 95 per cent of a mobile phone’s material re-enters the supply chain and is used for the fabrication of new products,” Spyro says.
“We transform the device’s waste components into valuable materials for reuse, which means fewer raw materials need to be extracted.”
Spyro says that when someone leaves their old device at one of MobileMuster’s 3500 public drop off points, it is collected and transported to a TES recycling facility in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane.
“The device is then disassembled into individual components including batteries, printed circuit boards, casing, screens, accessories and packaging,” Spyro says.
“None of the phones are resold, and any data left on the device is destroyed during the disassembling process.”
Spyro says components are then further processed though shredding and sorting techniques to maximise resource recovery.
“In 2017, TES started using Envirostream to process smartphone batteries, which is a difficult waste stream. At TES facilities in Melbourne, the batteries are granulated and sorted in materials for recycling,” Spyro says.
“The process recovers copper, aluminium, cobalt, nickel, lithium and plastics. The onshore solution also reduces the need to transport the batteries internationally for processing.”
In the age of smartphones and touch screens, glass is another core material in the recycling process.
“Glass from smartphones is crushed and melted before being reused for new products or as a replacement material in construction elements like roadbase.
“Aluminium is another significant component of mobile phones, and one of the most easily recycled materials. The recycling process uses considerably less energy than producing new aluminium.”
Aluminium is melted in a furnace, with the resulting liquid aluminium placed in moulds to create new products like drink cans, bikes and car bodies.
MobileMuster recycled one million handsets last year, and according to Spyro, the organisation needs to keep that momentum going if they hope to continue effectively tackling e-waste.
“The public need to be sure that when they leave their phone with MobileMuster, almost the entire device is being reused.”
Mobile Muster is calling on Australians to recycle their old mobile phone after the program was showcased on the ABC’s War on Waste.
The national government accredited mobile phone recycling program is aiming to encourage Australians to take their phones out of storage and recycle them. The program is funded by all of the major handset manufacturers and network carriers to provide the free recycling system.
Mobile Muster says there are currently more mobile phones in storage than the number of people in the country and estimates that by 2028, that number will reach almost 30 million.
Research shows that three out of four Australians are aware that they can recycle their phones, with Mobile Muster aiming to educate people on how they can recycle responsibly through its program.
Consumer awareness campaigns run by Mobile Muster highlight the environmental and social importance of recycling phones.
It also works closely with councils, workplaces, retailers and schools to raise awareness of mobile phone recycling, while also partnering with charities to give mobile users an added incentive to recycle their phones while doing good for communities.
Mobile Muster has established more than 35000 drop off points across Australia and have an agreement with AusPost where phones can be posted for free to be recycled.
Almost $45 million has been invested to develop a solid collection network and awareness campaigns over the last 20 years.
The program recycles 99 per cent of the material from phones and accessories, including glass, plastics and metals, reducing the need for virgin materials.
Mobile Muster Manager Spyro Kalos said most Australians know that we shouldn’t throw their phones in the bin, but many people hang on to them just in case they’re needed which often leads to them being forgotten in a draw.
“We know that recycling can be confusing sometimes, so we cut through that by providing a free and simple way for people to easily recycle their mobile phones. To date, we’ve recycled over 1,300 tonnes of mobile phones and accessories, including 13 million handsets and batteries. But there is always more to do,” he said.
“With millions of phones lying dormant at home, the e-waste problem is getting bigger and we all need to be talking about it more. Mobile phones can and should be recycled when they reach the end of their lives. We can all do our part to fight the war on waste, and it starts at home. That’s why we’re calling all Australians to find their old phones and recycle them the right way – today,” said Mr Kalos.
The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has announced the appointment of a new CEO, effective 1 August.
Rose Read will take up the position with 20 years of experience in the waste, recycling and environmental sectors. She has lead commercial and not-for-profit organisations like the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association’s MobileMuster and Clean Up Australia.
She is currently the CEO of the product stewardship arm of MRI E-cycle Solutions and will transition out of the role are MRI to take the position of CEO of NWRIC.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with Council members and State affiliates in addressing key national issues facing the industry,” Ms Read said.
“As a key enabler of the circular economy the recycling industry has much to contribute to Australia economically, environmentally and socially. I look forward to being part of NWRIC and collaborating with members and key stakeholders to create a more vibrant and sustainable waste and recycling industry,” she said.
MRI E-cycle Solutions Managing Director Will LeMessurier said Ms Read has played an important role in setting up MRI’s product stewardship arm over the past two years.
“She will continue to be involved in MRI on a part time basis over the next six months or so as we transition to our new structure. We wish her well in her new role and the continued positive influence she has over our industry,” he said.
The news follows the announcement of outgoing CEO Max Spedding’s retirement after 30 years of experience in the waste and recycling sector.
“Setting up the Council over the past two years has been a challenge but now we have all of the key national companies and state associations on board we are starting to see real and positive outcomes,” said Mr Spedding.
“With our current recycling problems and the urgent need for better infrastructure planning across Australia, Rose and her team have a busy time ahead. I wish them every success.”
Google has become the latest major organisation to join the industry’s official recycling program MobileMuster.
The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) welcomed the move, which follows electronics company Nokia, which also recently joined.
MobileMuster, run in partnership with mobile handset manufacturers and network operators Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile, provides a free national recycling program for mobiles and accessories.
AMTA Chief Executive Officer Chris Althausb noted the MobileMuster program was formally accredited by the Federal Government as a voluntary product stewardship scheme, and it was great to see new members joining the program as they introduce their products to the Australian market.
“MobileMuster is an example of industry working together to deliver a robust and sustainable take back program. This is one part of our members commitment to product stewardship,” said Recycling Manager, Spyro Kalos.
“MobileMuster ensure mobiles are kept out of landfill and recycled in a responsible, secure and environmentally sound way, placing reusable commodities back into the supply chain.”
Since the program started in late 1998 it has diverted more than 1,320 tonnes of mobiles and accessories from landfill for recycling, including more than an estimated 11.9 million handsets and batteries.
With over 96 per cent of the materials used in a mobile being recyclable, they can be reused to make new products, avoiding future greenhouse gas emissions, saving energy, protecting our environment and conserving scarce natural resources.
MobileMuster accepts and recycles all brands and types of mobile phones, batteries, chargers and accessories. They provide over 3,500 drop-off points across Australia to make it easy for people to recycle.