Monday, 14 March 2022 11:17

Swinburne University supporting 'Go for Zero' mobile recycling

Swinburne University supporting 'Go for Zero' mobile recycling Pixabay

Professor Alan Duffy, an astrophysicist from Swinburne University in Melbourne, is lending his support to an ambitious national campaign to round up over 4 million old and broken mobile phones and get them recycled.

Duffy says, “The precious metals that are used in our smartphones were forged in dying stars, so Earth isn’t getting any more. We mine them at enormous cost and they are an essential part of electronics. These supplies won’t last forever which means recovering what we can from our old devices is critical. If we recycle those 4.2 million broken mobiles we can prevent over 8,000 tonnes of mineral resources being mined, with saved carbon emissions equivalent to planting 42,000 trees.”

It’s exciting to get a new computer, TV or smartphone but when we replace one of these hi-tech products what happens to the old one? The recent E-product Stewardship in Australia report revealed, that in 2019, each of us generated 20.4 kgs of e-waste.

Mobile phones (unlike TVs or washing machines) are small, light and easy to store. We are also attached to them, they’ve been with us daily, and they hold precious photos and other personal data. We stash our old device ‘just for now’, with every good intention of dealing with responsible disposal later.

However, research shows that this rarely happens. Over 4 million broken and obsolete mobile phones are just gathering dust in Australian homes, representing a stockpile of valuable materials and metals that can be reclaimed through recycling.

Duffy shared the huge impact that recycling these 4.2 million mobiles would have:

  • It would conserve 8,274 tonnes of mineral resources
  • It would avoid the equivalent of 1,621 tonnes of CO2 emissions entering the atmosphere
  • The carbon emissions avoided is the equivalent of planting 42,000 trees!

Duffy added that recycling one mobile phone avoids the emission of 386 grams of CO2 due to the value of the secondary materials recovered. It might not sound like a lot but when you multiply that by 4.2 million it becomes very significant.

When a smartphone is recycled, over 95% of its components are captured for reuse. This includes cobalt, nickel and lithium as well as small amounts of gold, silver, palladium, copper and platinum. These recycled materials are then available for use in new products, which reduces the need for virgin mining.

Duffy believes the time to act is now! "Every year, the unintentional stockpile of old and unused mobile phones will grow unless each of us takes responsible and easy actions to ensure they are recycled," he said.

Last year Australians recycled 800,000 smartphones – in 2022 Duffy is asking all Australians to Go for Zero and check their home office, bottom drawers, cupboards, and ‘that box’ in the garage or attic to find the remaining 4.2 million old and broken phones (and their accessories) and recycle them. 

To find out more about how and where to recycle your mobiles and accessories, visit Mobile Muster 'Go for Zero'.

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Chris Coughlan

A versatile technology executive with extensive experience in most disciplines and technologies in the Information and Communications Technologies sector. Roles have encompassed general management, product management, business development, sales management, industry marketing, operations management, research and development, business case development, market research and forecasting, regulatory, strategy management, solution development, major project construction, process design and management, technology and management consulting, and engineering.

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