Home Home Tech 30m phones in Australia 'wasting away in drawers' not being sold or recycled

New research says Australians "have over 30 million spare, unused mobile phones sitting idle in our drawers", with the number set to soar as eight million new phones will sell during 2017.

Phone and Internet comparison site, WhistleOut, has published survey results investigatng what Australians are doing with their old phones, "and for many of us, the answer is nothing at all".

We're told that "three-quarters of us have at least one spare, unused phone, while half of us have two or more unused handsets lying around".

On top of that, we each on average "have 1.6 spare mobile phones, and with there being 22 million phone subscribers in Australia, that would suggest there are as many as 35 million old phones strewn around our homes".

Here's the first Whistleout graph with some more detail.

When asked what people did with their previous phone, "20% said they gifted it to someone else, but by far the most common response was ‘Nothing, I still have it’."

Here's the company's second graph.

Whistleout's Joseph Hanlon said: “People often think it’s a good idea to keep hold of an old phone ‘just in case’ their new one breaks or they need it later for some reason. So it gets put in a drawer to gather dust, despite it being in good working condition.

“When you think about the huge number of phones involved, perhaps the biggest issue this raises is an environmental one. While almost all of us (91%) know old phones can be recycled, only 14% of Australians actually recycle their old handsets.

"And with well over eight million new smartphones expected to be sold in 2017, that’s another seven million phones that will be added to the mountain of ‘spares’ in Australia. We’re talking about a lot of plastic and precious metal that could otherwise be reused.”

WhistleOut points to Mobile Muster as being "a great service for recycling mobile phones, with the team there saying 96% of the materials used in phones and accessories can be recycled".

It’s also really easy to recycle your old handset. Simply post your old phones to Mobile Muster or drop them off at one of the major carrier stores, like Telstra, Optus, Vodafone or Virgin Mobile.

Hanlon added: “It’s not only an environmental story.

“We know the most popular phones are the new flagship devices from the likes of Apple and Samsung, and they’re not cheap to buy with the latest models costing upwards of $1500 each. What some people might not realise is how well these handsets can retain their value over time, especially iPhone models. If you were to sell your old phone after upgrading, you might get back up to 50% of what you originally bought it for, which can be a considerable saving.

“If selling your phone sounds like too much work there are a number of ‘cash for phones’ websites that will pay you for older models, like Mazuma Mobile. You won’t get as much as you would for a private sale, but the process is much simpler.

“Even if old phones sold for $100, we’re talking about $3 billion in missed sales because there are so many unused handsets out there.”


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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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