Recycling Mobile Phones

Why Recycle Mobile Phones?
Right now, there are over 25.5 million unwanted mobile phones hiding in drawers, cupboards and garages across Australia. That's tonnes of metal, minerals, plastic and glass - things that the planet desperately needs us to recycle.

That's where MobileMuster comes in. As the official product stewardship program for the mobile industry, their mission is simple: Keep mobile phones out of landfill. By recycling your mobile, you're avoiding future greenhouse gas emissions, saving energy, protecting the environment and conserving scarce natural resources. You're also preventing potentially hazardous materials from entering the environment.

What's in old mobile phone handsets?

Whats in old mobile phone handsets

The Recycling Process

Mobile phone recycling process info graphic
What Happens to the Mobile Phones when they are Recycled?
There are 6 steps of recycling. Below is the insight into MobileMuster's recycler, TES-AMM's process. As well as being highly efficient, this process provides a complete breakdown of chemical compounds. That means it prevents potentially damaging chemical compounds (such as dioxins and furans) from reforming and threatening the environment.

Step 1: Sorting
First, phones are dismantled and sorted into the following components: batteries (NiCad, NiMetHyd and Lithium Ion), printed circuit boards, handsets, chargers/accessories, plastics, metals and paper/cardboard packaging.

Step 2: Batteries
Batteries are sorted into their chemical types.  All lithium ion and nickel metal hydride (NiMetHyd) batteries are shipped to

TES-AMM in Singapore where they're processed for cobalt, lithium and nickel.  All Nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries are shipped to KOBAR Ltd in South Korea where they are processed for nickel (to make stainless steel), cadmium (to make new batteries) and copper.

Step 3: Circuits
Circuit boards are stored and then shipped to TES-AMM in Singapore where they are processed for precious metals including gold, silver, copper and lead.

Step 4: Casings
The plastics in a mobile phone case are shredded and used to produce composite plastic products like pallets.  

Step 5: Accessories and Mixed Plastics

Copper wiring is sent to local metal recyclers for recovery. Other accessories and mixed plastics are processed by TES-AMM in Singapore. Here, they are shredded and the plastics are separated from the ferrous and non-ferrous metals for re-use. The plastics are used to make shipping pallets and the metals sold on to manufacturers.

Step 6: Packaging
Packaging is separated into plastic and paper and sent to local recyclers for processing. 

Did you know…

  • Over 90% of the materials used in mobiles and accessories can be recovered.
  • These materials can be used to make everything from stainless steel to plastic fence posts.
  • Mobiles should never be thrown out. They're not biodegradable, and they contain some materials that can potentially harm the environment if not handled correctly at the end of a phone's useful life.
  • Recycling 50,000 handsets can remove the need to mine 110 tonnes gold ore, 213 tonnes of silver bearing ore or 11 tonnes of copper sulphide ore. Pretty precious stuff.
  • For every tonne of mobile phone materials recovered 10 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions are avoided.