Mobile phone recycling has failed with mountains of toxic devices still waiting to be dumped, the director of the Total Environment Centre (TEC), Jeff Angel, said today.
Referring to two recent reports by the mobile phone industry to the NSW government, Angel said the research proves the industry's "Mobile Muster" scheme is seriously flawed.
He said the industry update on the program, completed in June 2007 and November 2006, has achieved a paltry three percent recycling recovery rate.
"In the meantime, a mountain of toxic mobiles are waiting to be dumped," Angel said.
"After seven years in the game, all the industry can claim is a pathetic three percent recycling rate, despite collecting a levy on every new phone sold. Mobile Muster is all spin and no substance."
Angel said the reports, which were compiled by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), show very few mobiles are actually being recycled.
He said although the AMTA likes to selectively play with figures, it cannot hide such a hopeless prograrm.
"They also claim that most people don't dump their phones, preferring to keep them. But this is a temporary situation," Angel said.
"Once the phone is technologically redundant, nobody is going to keep it."
A survey undertaken by TEC shows the scheme has fewer than 20 percent of phone retailers participating in the scheme and only eight percent of stores have a visible recycling bin.
"Voluntary measures alone are proving insufficient. The toxic time bomb is ticking," Angel said.
"It's time environment ministers imposed a regulated Extended Producer Responsibility scheme with clear targets, and make industry responsible and accountable for the waste it creates.
"A refundable deposit or a pre-paid return envelope with the phones would be a great incentive to get those phones out of cupboards and bins and recycled. There are successful examples from overseas."
Angel said the AMTA claims recycling has increased from 19 percent to 30 percent.
"But what counts is how many mobiles sold are recycled and that's only three percent," he said.
However, AMTA recycling manager, Rose Read, has strongly rejected the TEC's claims, labelling them as extraordinary and said the attack is 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 percent of mobile phone owners choose to keep their old mobile phones or give them away to a family member or friend.