Environmental lobby pushes for phone recycling

Environmental lobby groups, in their push for the recycling of mobile phones have added a plea for the introduction of a refundable deposit.

The disposal of old mobile phones will be on the agenda today as state and federal environment ministers gather in Darwin for an Environment Protection and Heritage Council meeting.

Lobby group Environment Victoria says about 12 million Australians own mobile phones and replace them with new handsets every 18 to 24 months.

Spokeswoman Jenny Henty said a voluntary recycling scheme run by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) had netted no more than three percent of phones sold to date in Australia, leaving more than 30 million at risk of being dumped in landfills.

She said mobile phones contain toxic substances like arsenic, beryllium and cadmium and also valuable metals like gold, which could be recycled.

"Mobile phones contain a litany of hazardous chemicals that are lethal to human health and the environment when dumped in landfills," she said.

Environment Victoria wants consumers to pay a $10 deposit when they buy their phones, which would be refunded when they returned them.

Victorian Environment Minister John Thwaites has called for the mobile phone industry to get recycling levels up to 50 percent.

He has said if this was not achieved, other measures could be looked at such as a $5 cash payment for people returning mobile phones they no longer wanted.

However, the AMTA said a cash refund isn't the solution.

According to a AMTA study 42 percent of mobile phone users keep their old handsets, 18 percent gave them to a friend and 9 percent threw them out.

A spokesperson said the phones people kept tucked away "in the bottom drawer" were not damaging the environment.

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