Recycle your old phone, don't hoard it!

How to recycle your old mobile phone

Many of us probably have an old phone lying around in an odd drawer in the house – and if you’re upgrading your phone every three years, you could potentially have more than that. We probably say to ourselves that the old phone is there in case you need an ‘emergency’ phone, but not many people actually end up using this backup phone. Maybe it’s time to recycle that old phone.

According to the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), there are 31 million mobile devices active in Australia, and an approximate 23 million mobile phones sitting unused in our homes across Australia. Of those 23 mllion, five million are broken and no longer working.

So how do you recycle your old mobile phone? There’s plenty of ways to recycle that unused piece of tech, and in this article we’ll explain how to recycle your old phone, where to recycle it, and what the benefits are.

How do I recycle my mobile phone?

Mobile Muster is a government and phone industry funded recycling and product stewardship program, and advises a few of the best ways to recycle your old mobile phone:

  • Repair it: Chances are if it’s just a cracked screen or a minor fault it can be repaired and resold or reused.
  • Hand it down, or up: If you have a sibling, parent or friend in need of a mobile, they may appreciate your old mobile phone. Don’t forget about the elderly folk in your life!
  • Donate: Certain charities may accept old mobile phones in good conditions, either for reselling in an op shop or to donate directly to those in need.

When looking to give away or dispose of your mobile phone, to ensure privacy you’ll probably want to wipe data from both your phone and SIM card, and factory reset the phone – Mobile Muster states it does this as part of its recycling program. Putting it back in the original box helps too, as does including any information, chargers or documentation when you picked it up.

  • Mobile Muster’s recycling program involves an array of collection sites, and alternatively, you can mail your old mobile in for free. Instructions on posting can be found below, or on the Mobile Muster website.

Recycling your old phone? It might be time to upgrade your SIM

There’s plenty of reasons to upgrade your old phone, but while you’re upgrading your phone, it’s important to scan the market for a SIM card perfect for your needs. SIM cards are changing all the time, and it’s important to know how much data you need, and even more important to be paying for only what you need. Below you’ll find some great SIM cards to choose from.

Here is a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use Canstar Blue’s phone plan comparison tool to see a wide range of plans on offer from mobile providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Here is a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a wide range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Where can I recycle my mobile phone?

Mobile Muster is perhaps the foremost provider of mobile phone recycling facilities in Australia and boasts over 3000 drop-off locations.

According to Mobile Muster, local government partners have increased collections by 25% and recycled over 4.5 tonnes of mobile phones and components through the phone recycling program. According to the not-for-profit, the top councils in Australia (in 2020) for recycling mobile phones are:

Mobile Phone Recycling in New South Wales

  • Hornsby Shire Council
  • Lake Macquarie City Council
  • Lismore City Council
  • Liverpool City Council
  • Randwick City Council

Mobile Phone Recycling in Queensland

  • Brisbane City Council
  • Cairns Regional Council
  • Noosa Shire Council
  • Sunshine Coast Council
  • Townsville City Council

Mobile Phone Recycling in South Australia

  • City of Mitcham
  • City of Onkaparinga
  • City of Port Adelaide Enfield
  • City of Tea Tree Gully
  • District Council of Mount Barker

Mobile Phone Recycling in Tasmania

  • Break O’Day Council
  • Burnie City Council
  • Glenorchy City Council
  • Latrobe Council

Mobile Phone Recycling in Victoria

  • City of Boroondara
  • East Gippsland Shire Council
  • Latrobe City Council
  • Moonee Valley City Council
  • Yarra City Council

Mobile Phone Recycling in Western Australia

  • City of Bayswater
  • City of Canning
  • City of Stirling
  • Mindarie Regional Council
  • Shire of Esperance

Mobile Phone Recycling in the Northern Territory

  • Alice Springs Town Council
  • Darwin City Council
  • Litchfield Council

How do I post my mobile phone to be recycled?

Sometimes when you buy a phone, the handset will come with a recycling bag including free postage. This is for your old phone, and if you put your old handset in it, it’s sent off to a recycling plant. You can also pick up a free phone postal satchel at participating AusPost stores. Just send your old phone away and that’s the end of it.

What can be recycled in a mobile phone?

What can be recycled in a mobile phone?

The AMTA says that over 99% of the parts in phones can be recovered and recycled, making them a perfect product to recycle.

Arguably the most important features in a mobile phone that can be recycled are the precious metals, which can be used in other electronics. There are four main components in a mobile phone, including:

  • Batteries
  • Plastics
  • Circuits
  • Accessories

Mobile Muster states it extracts and breaks down plastics, precious metals and copper, as well as cadmium and nickel. Metals and components are then broken down and reused in things like plastic fence posts, stainless steel appliances and electronics, as well as new batteries.

Who funds Mobile Muster?

Several key mobile providers fund Mobile Muster to provide its phone recycling service throughout Australia. They are Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile. If you’re thinking of bringing back that disused mobile phone from the dead and using it as a true spare, emergency phone, you might like to consider some of these long-expiry plans.

Beyond these major players, Mobile Muster is funded voluntarily by all the major phone manufacturers and network carriers.

Should I recycle my old mobile phone?

If you know you wont use it, then there’s no reason not to. With Mobile Muster having more than 3000 locations Australia-wide, there’s probably a drop-off box in your town. This is especially true for capital cities, where there are hundreds in shops around the CBDs. Alternatively, recycling is made even easier as Mobile Muster allows you to send your old mobile phone in, and all data is erased for peace of mind. Not only is this good for the environment, but it declutters your home and the precious metals in your phone can go a long way in being recycled for use in other appliances and electronics. The next time you’re cleaning your house, it may be worth considering getting rid of that unused phone.

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