TEC’S attack on Australia’s only industry-wide electronic product recycling program is misleading and misdirected

The Recycling Manager of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), Rose Read, said the Total Environment Centre’s (TEC) extraordinary attack on the MobileMuster mobile phone recycling program was misdirected and misleading.

“It is misleading in the extreme for the TEC to claim that millions of mobile phones are making their way to landfills across Australia,” she said.

“That is wrong. The most recent research completed by reputable, independent experts IPSOS has found that 82% of mobile phone owners choose to keep their old mobile phones or give them away to a family member or friend.

“These handsets are not thrown into landfill. The TEC wants people to believe that mobile phones are just like soft drink cans, plastic bags or newspapers - once used are thrown away.

Drawers and cupboards, not landfill

“Research shows that consumers regard their mobile phones as having lasting value and use, with most people deciding to keep their old ones as a backup or spare in their bottom drawer or cupboard. When it is in the drawer it’s not harming the environment.”

Ms Read said recent figures showed that only 4% of people reported they had thrown their previous mobile phone in the rubbish bin. This was less than half the figure since MobileMuster was relaunched in 2005.

This combined with increased collections since Mobilemuster was launched translates into an increase in the recycling rate of phones discarded by consumers from 19% to 30%.

Ms Read also hit back at the TEC for calling into question the motives of the MobileMuster program, pointing out that last month the mobile telecommunications industry partnered with Landcare Australia in the environmental incentive campaign ‘Old Phones, New Trees” where a tree will be planted for every handset recycled .

“It is very disappointing that the TEC criticises MobileMuster when it is the only industry-wide program for electronic waste offering free recycling for all mobile phone brands in Australia. It is the only such scheme in the world,” said Ms Read.

MobileMuster is free to consumers and is funded by the 16 leading handset manufacturers and network carriers in Australia.

1900 places to recycle your mobile

MobileMusters collection network of 1900 drop-off points includes all the major mobile phone retailers Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, 3 Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Crazy Johns, FoneZone, Allphones as well as 160 local councils and participating Sydney Credit Union and ANZ branches.

TEC’s survey is based on the false premise that all stores that sell mobile phone services should offer recycling services. The aim of the Mobilemuster collection network is to make recycling more accessible to consumers. Therefore, Mobilemuster has diversified its collection network to include other locations visited more frequently by consumers such as banks, libraries, selected electronics stores as well as setting up collections in schools and workplaces.

Ms Read said: “One must ask why the TEC is attacking an industry that has clearly demonstrated its commitment to product stewardship by committing nearly $10 million to the MobileMuster program and collecting more than 2.7 million batteries and handsets.”

Deposit scheme – limited impact

Ms Read said the TEC’s call for a $10 refundable deposit scheme for mobile phones would have limited impact on recycling rates, increase costs for consumers, be administratively inefficient and potentially increase the risk of mobile phones being stolen by providing an incentive for thieves.

“Our approach is far more cost effective and efficient than a deposit system for consumers,” she said.

Independent market research in March 2005 by The Klein Partnership on such an option found that a refundable deposit on point of purchase of a mobile phone would be the least likely incentive to motivate consumers to recycle their old phones.

Accountability, transparency and free service to consumers

Ms Read said the MobileMuster program was accountable and transparent and the recycling process is regularly audited by KPMG. It has set targets to boost collections by 200% and halve what goes into landfill within three years, increase consumer awareness, increase access and visibility, apply best environmental practices, optimize material recovery and maintain a free service to consumers with more than 90% of industry involvement.

On the program’s performance Ms Read added. “Since MobileMuster was launched in late 2005, awareness of mobile phone recycling has increased from 46% in March 2005 to 79% in June 2007 and collections increased by 72% from 50 tonnes to 86 tonnes in the past 12 months.

“MobileMuster is striving to reach its goals of increasing the recycling rate, reducing what goes to landfill, increasing consumer awareness and making free recycling facilities more accessible to consumers.

“We are committed to an environmentally responsible and sustainable industry and we will continue our strong efforts to deliver tangible results that benefit the environment at no cost to the community.”

For more information on MobileMuster view: www.mobilemuster.com.au

All media enquiries please call Randal Markey, Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, (02) 6239 6555 or 0421 240 550