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Monday, 21 April 2008 13:18

Don't recycle your CDMA mobile at a Telstra store!

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Telstra is asking CDMA customers to hand in their old CDMA phones at Telstra shops and dealers around Australia so they can be recycled for valuable materials, rather than end up in landfill as an inconvenient pollutant. But why recycle them at a Telstra store – when your local school – and the environment – needs them more?

Got an old CDMA phone – or heck, any old phone? With CDMA due to close on April 28, Telstra has put out the call to recycle those old phones at any Telstra shop or dealer around Australia, but there’s a very good reason to ignore Telstra and give those phones to your local school, instead.

Why? Because of the MobileMuster program, which Telstra is promoting in its press release, has a far worthier use for them than Telstra, which just wants to see them recycled. Of course, that is very noble, and Telstra can’t be faulted for that, not for a minute.

Now, MobileMuster recycling stations – basically a big plastic box with a hole at the top - are dotted across Australia – my most recent memory of seeing one is at various ANZ Banks, and you can recycle any old phone, not just CDMA phones.

Telstra says that it is an active supporter of the MobileMuster handset recycling program, which to June 2007 has collected more than 2.7 million handsets and batteries, something that is also very, very worthy.

So why am I so ardently suggesting you ignore Telstra’s request to recycle your old phones, be they CDMA or otherwise, at Telstra stores?

Because I decided to visit the MobileMuster home page, which led to me to a page that asks Australians to “Register your school to round up old mobiles in the lead up to World Environment Day (June 5th)”, and asks “are you ready to accept the challenge?”

The MobileMuster site says that: “For every mobile handset received by MobileMuster a native tree will be planted by Landcare”, up to a maximum of 100,000 trees.

In addition, MobileMuster’s site says “Plus your school could earn rewards like library resources, landscaping supplies or sporting equipment for the school; Milton school packs, watches or backpacks for students and classroom resource packs for teachers! “

They finish by saying: “Be part of the solution and celebrate World Environment Day by accepting the MobileMuster Old Phones, More Trees Challenge.”

So, given that your local school can actually earn some likely much needed new resources, and the planet can benefit by getting up to 100,000 new trees planted, why would you just want to take the easy option of recycling your old phone at a Telstra store?

Now that we have that out of the way, what did Telstra say about the recycling drive, which is all still, nevertheless, quite valid? And what are the valuable metals contained within each phone? Please read onto page 2.


Telstra’s media spokesperson, Peter Taylor, said that: “CDMA customers around the country are upgrading to the Next G network and it's vitally important that old CDMA handsets are recycled, rather ending up in landfill.”

Taylor continued: "CDMA mobile phones won't work anywhere in Australia once the network shuts down on 28 April 2008, so there's no point tucking away an old CDMA handset in a car glove box or kitchen drawer for future use.”

Taylor ended by noting that: "All Telstra Shops and dealers will accept old mobile phones and accessories, regardless of age or condition. Dropping off an old CDMA handset for recycling is quick and easy, and customers will be doing their bit for the environment.”

Taylor is, of course, right. If you can’t drop your phone off at a school, then a Telstra store – or other MobileMuster recycling ‘centre’, is also an ideal spot to recycle your old phones, rather than dumping them or keeping them in a bottom drawer somewhere.

Dumping them in landfill is a no-no because phones are not biodegradable and contain chemical compounds that can damage the environment.

So what happens when MobileMuster gets them – no matter where they get them from? Phones and batteries will be “melted down and recycled into new products”. Useful by-products of mobile phone recycling include:

Nickel - used in the production of stainless steel
Cadmium - used in new batteries
Gold and silver - used in jewellery
Plastics - used in plastic fence posts

So, if you can manage it – and there is still plenty of time – why not investigate getting a MobileMuster program up and running at your local school?


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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