Australia's product stewardship program MobileMuster, has come out in support of the inquiry, which will research existing recycling practices in developing countries that leave local communities exposed to e-waste.
The group said in a statement many Australians may not be aware of the unsafe recycling practices in developing countries that can have health impacts, when selling their second-hand mobile in Australia, which are then shipped overseas.
“Over the last few years we have seen a considerable increase in the number of businesses here that are purchasing Australians’ old mobile phones and then selling them overseas, specifically to developing countries within Africa and Asia,” said Rose Read, Recycling Manager for MobileMuster.
“Many of these buy-back businesses will reassure consumers that they are sending the phones to developing countries that need them, but this isn’t as simple as it appears.”
Whilst the increase in demand and use of mobiles is crucial to improving the economic potential of developing countries, unfortunately the waste disposal and processing systems have not developed as quickly as the mobile telecommunication systems have.
“Mobile phones contain a range of materials that when not processed and handled to the highest safety standards can potentially damage health and the environment where they are disposed,” commented Read
“Additionally, mobiles contain metals, plastics and other materials that can be recovered and put back into the resource supply stream, reducing the need to mine.”
MobileMuster engages accredited recyclers that meet stringent environmental standards for processing mobiles and accessories and no handset is shipped offshore to developing countries.
The group said that many of the phones sent to developing countries will not be recycled properly and end up in landfill.
“It is incredibly important that the care and disposal of all imported mobile technology products are the responsibility of the businesses that bring them into the country,” said Read.
“Here in Australia, there is a free, industry-funded recycling scheme that will see your mobile recycled here, not end up landfill and become the e-waste burden of another country,”
“We would like to see all Australians to stop, think and consider how their old mobiles and other electronics gadgets might end up being recycled, and that there is a option to do so here and now."