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What do I do with my old mobile?

  • Where to take your old handsets
  • Alternative uses for old phones
  • Other e-cycling options
Written by Adam Wajnberg
28/03/2012

E-Waste is becoming the topic du jour, with all sorts of articles about the abundance of old TVs and computers littering Australia’s nature strips. This year will also hopefully see the rollout of a new government initiative in the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme. And phones are the next big culprit. Though smaller, phones are even more ubiquitous and considered even more disposable. 

                          e-waste mobile phone recycling

More and more Australians are on their 2nd or even 3rd smartphone, while old featurephones are being treated with much the same respect that we treat disposable nappies.

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Sticking with mobiles, what can e-conscious customers do to limit their impact on the growing e-waste issue?

1.    Do you really need to upgrade?

At CompareMobilePlans, we like smartphones. A lot. Besides their capabilities, smartphones also usually offer a nicer experience in the basics of making calls and sending messages. So if you’re ditching a featurephone for a smartphone, it’s hard for us to suggest otherwise. But if you already have last year’s iPhone, or a Samsung Galaxy from 6 months ago, is it really necessary to jump right into the latest model? Most app developers keep a little redundancy in their apps to run for a year or two on older hardware – and that should actually increase over time. The frenzy is on right now, but the market will eventually die down, and software will have to accommodate more patient users who are willing to stick it out for a few years. There are also some really fantastic SIM only plans out there for people who already own their own phone, like AmaySIM’s $40 Unlimited plan.

More to the point, Apple is currently setting a pace of a major hardware revision every two years, with incremental updates every 12 months. And as Apple is currently the sneezer to everyone else’ cold, expect Samsung and HTC to slow down their frenetic pace. Windows Phone is taking its time, releasing new phones through only a handful of vendors at the rate of a few every year.

2.    Give it to someone else

                    smartphone touch interface

I still contend that smartphones are more intuitive than even the most basic of featurephones- especially for texting. Once new users get over the lack of haptic feedback (the physical ‘click’ of buttons), there’s no going back from a touch interface. There are plenty of sound ways to lock down a phone to make it appropriate for a child to use, and plenty of ways to strip back the amount of clutter to make it senior-friendly.

3.    Smartphone = tiny computer

Smartphones are really just tiny computers that make calls. So it makes sense that you only need one in your pocket. But consider that most smartphones make excellent devices around the house- music servers, video players (Most Android models can be connected direct to an HDTV with an HDMI cable) and even remote controls (hardware depending).

But there’s more! Most cyclists might be nervous strapping their smartphone to their bike to use as a GPS/Trip Computer/Calorie Counter, but once you’ve upgraded, that old model can still run apps like Cyclemeter (iOS) and Biketrack (Android). Click the links for more.

It might seem a waste to use a once-$800 device for mundane things like a kitchen timer, bike computer or remote control, but it’s better than having that device melting into the ground or sitting in a drawer. And on that-

4.    Wait. Let it sit in a drawer.

So everyone in your house has a smartphone, and you just don’t need that 2 year old handset cluttering up the room? Wait. Keeping it in a drawer won’t necessarily kill you- a smartphone is easier to stow away than a TV that doubles as a coffee table, after all.
And you never know when someone will step on their existing handset, or lose it in a cab, or when a family member will visit from overseas for a few weeks and need a phone to carry around.

When it really has to go

old handsets

Once a phone has really become more trash than treasure, you do have several options for disposing of it responsibly.

Mobile Muster – This is an excellent program that aims to commoditize parts, and use the proceeds to support families in the developing world. It’s a worldwide Oxfam effort, with some 1000 or so potential dropoff points Australia wide. There’s no excuse to throw an old mobile in the trash with these guys around.

Get something for it – eBay, Gumtree and Cash Converters are all excellent places to drop off old phones, with iPhones and Samsung handsets being the most likely to get you back a decent chuck of what you paid. But even if it’s $5 – that’s $5 you didn’t have before, and it’s still better than chucking it in the trash.

For more information on how to recycle your old mobiles, gadgets, TVs and computers, check out the CleanUp.org.au e-waste factsheet.

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