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With Australians hanging on to over 20 million no longer used mobile phones, a new campaign has been launched to encourage phone recycling - saving waste, recovering and reusing resources and raising money for a good cause.
Organised by technology giant Sony's charity arm, the Sony Foundation, the You Can campaign will collect unwanted phones (of all brands) through in-store collection bins and a Reply Paid mail-in program, refurbish and resell them - with the funds raised going towards the building of youth cancer centres across Australia.
Mobile phones unable to be resold will be broken down and recycled through Irish-based company Folamh.
The Australian mobile phone industry's official recycling program, Mobile Muster, which operates its own collection and recycling service, recently released a report showing that an estimated 21 million disused phones were being kept around the country - with 31 per cent of us having not one but two or more old phones languishing in cupboards and drawers.
Some of the phones we keep are so old they can no longer connect to modern service providers, the study said, yet 35 per cent of people surveyed were still reluctant to recycle or donate them in the hopes they may one day be useful.
Indeed, less than eight percent of phones are currently recycled, despite the variety of charities and recyclers willing to take them.
"For many of us, we think about the initial cost of our old mobile phone and continue to value them at the same level," said social scientist Pol McCann, from the University of Technology in Sydney. "We should ask ourselves: do we really need them? Is the sentimental value more important than recycling?"
When it comes to recycling phones, up to 90 per cent of their components can be given new life in everything from other phones to gold jewellery to fence posts.
"Keeping phones at home is a waste of their materials," said Rose Read, Manager of Recycling with the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association. "By putting those materials back into the cycle we can replace raw materials - which in turn reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions."
Many phones can also be touched up and resold as a whole, as the You Can campaign aims to do, helping to conserve resources that would otherwise be spent on entirely new products.
"With mobile phones being upgraded approximately every 12 to 18 months, there is a continuous supply of mobile phones becoming obsolete each year that can be recycled, helping not only the environment but a wonderful cause," said Alexis Bicknell, speaking on behalf of the Sony Foundation.
For more information on the You Can campaign and how to contribute, or to download a Reply Paid label for your phone, visit www.youcan.org.au.
For other phone recycling options in Australia, head to www.mobilemuster.com.au.