Spyro Kalos, MobileMuster General Manager, speaks with Waste Management Review about the product stewardship scheme’s 21st anniversary and shifting approaches to sustainability.
While Australians are early adopters of technology, the length of mobile phone ownership remains relatively stable, with half the population using their mobile phone for two or more years, according to MobileMuster research.
Reuse and repair rates are also rising, as the circular economy concept continues to take root.
Aside from shifting supply chains, one of the most important circular economy outcomes is changing the public’s attitudes when it comes to reuse, repair and recycling. People are realising that an out-of-date phone doesn’t need to become waste. It can be reused through sale or passed on to family and friends.
Spyro Kalos, MobileMuster General Manager, says to support the growing reuse and repair market, MobileMuster has developed education resources and partnered with several leading commercial reuse programs.
“Traditionally, refurbished devices were shipped to developing markets overseas, but there is a growing demand for refurbished devices locally,” he says.
“When a device has no commercial resale value however, consumers are encouraged to recycle them with MobileMuster.”
Spyro says MobileMuster’s expansion into reuse and repair education is typical for the program, which since 1998, has continued to adapt and grow in line with advancing technology and consumer expectations.
Celebrating its 21st birthday earlier this year, Spyro says MobileMuster began as a standard take-back program.
“Since it began, MobileMuster has collected over 1500 tonnes of mobile phone components, and now operates the most extensive drop off network of any stewardship program in the country,” he says.
At an anniversary event at Sydney’s The Mint in early November, Spyro highlighted the importance of collaboration and building strong relationships with collection network stakeholders.
“Our collection partners are critical to the success of the program. They are motivated and actively engage in supporting our work, including raising awareness to get more people recycling,” he says.
“We have also seen a significant growth in the number of repair stores joining the program, with over 220 stores now participating as a collection point,” he says.
The event was attended by 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. Spyro says the event highlights how far the scheme has grown.
MobileMuster collected and recycled 84.1 tonnes of mobile phone components in 2019, including 1.2 million handsets and batteries. Spyro adds that one in three Australians have recycled a mobile phone since the program began.
“The success of our scheme relies on raising awareness through promotions, and addressing barriers to recycling through education,”
“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.”
In addition to behavioural and awareness changes, Spyro says MobileMuster is committed to a high recovery rate through its recycling process, and notes that the design of mobiles phones has changed over the programs 21 years
“The material make-up of mobiles is always changing. Manufacturers are using more glass and metals than ever before – material that is highly recyclable and also in demand,”
With public scrutiny increasingly focused on the recycling industry, Spyro says MobileMuster is committed to total process transparency.
“The program only uses a single recycling partner, which helps us understand their end to end operations. We also audit their recycling processes yearly,” he says.
“Additionally, our recycling partner has experience working under Basel Convention rules, along with the importing and exporting of hazardous waste.”
Looking to the future, Spyro says MobileMuster will work closely with its members, stakeholders and the government to ensure the program’s continued success.
“Over the past five years, collections have remained high with MobileMuster meeting its targets and key performance indicators under the Product Stewardship Act’s voluntary accreditation,” he says.
“That said, there is always room for improvement. We need more consumers participating because, without them, we have a fundamental flaw in the circular economy concept.”