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Publications archive - Waste and recycling


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Electrical and Electronic Products Infrastructure Facilitation

Prepared in association with Centre for Design at RMIT and Product Ecology Pty Ltd
Department of the Environment and Heritage, January, 2004

Appendix D - Case Studies

Mobile Phone Industry Recycling Program - Australia

Consumers feel mobile phones are one of those electronic products that have some residual value whether they are functional or not. As with so many small electrical and electronic devices, they are either stored away or disposed of with other domestic waste, often ending up in landfill or being incinerated when moving house or cleaning up. However, the growing number of take-back and recycling schemes around the world is now making responsible disposal more of a reality.

Numerous schemes are also emerging across the Asia-Pacific Region. Nokia in particular have been actively developing their End of Life take-back services since early 2000. Malaysia and Singapore have been acting as pilot countries for the recycling schemes with expansion to China and the Philippines over time. Nokia's Care Centres will act as the drop off point for old phones. According to Ian Broughall, Nokia's environmental affairs specialist in the Asia-Pacific, mobile phone recycling has resulted in a competitive advantage due to the enthusiastic response of consumers. Source: 'Insight: Environmental Report of Nokia Corporation 2000'

In Australia, the Mobile Phone Industry Recycling Program (MPIRP) is an industry funded recovery and recycling scheme specifically for mobile phone handsets, batteries and accessories. Developed and co-ordinated by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), the MPIRP is a national program with joint industry membership covering mobile phone producers and distributors, carriers and retailers.

This industry-led model represents a significant precedent. Not only does the Program offer a full take-back and recycling service at no direct cost to consumers, it is also funded by AMTA's members companies. The AMTA Program was developed on a voluntary basis, however the threat of increasing government interest and concern about how and where rechargeable, nickel cadmium batteries were being disposed, was most likely a primary driver for industry action.

The cost of administering the recovery and recycling scheme is covered by a AU$0.40/handset levy on the sale of new phones. This levy comes from phone producers, distributors and carriers involved in the AMTA Program, and includes: Alcatel, Ericsson, Mitsubishi, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, RF Industries, Samsung, AAPT, Cable & Wireless Optus, Orange, Telstra, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

The MPIRP origins commenced in 1999 with a trial focused on battery recycling in New South Wales. Funded in part by the NSW Government, the pilot proved successful and has since been expanded across Australia with over 700 retail stores participating in the recycling program. Handsets, batteries and accessories, are all accepted regardless of brand, providing an inclusive service to consumers prepared to drop off unwanted items at participating AMTA members.

Many of barriers often associated with the success or failure of take-back and recycling schemes can be reduced to transport and logistics. However, the overall approach and foresight of AMTA and its member companies highlight what is possible when corporate environmental responsibility is treated seriously. It also demonstrates that take-back need not always be regulated especially where companies take a proactive role. This is not always the case in some industry sectors, and thus the need for intelligent regulations that impose mandatory obligations and targets on companies otherwise slow to move forward on their environmental responsibilities.

Some facts and figures

According to the AMTA web site, the overall program logistics are managed by MRI Australia Pty Limited under contract to AMTA. The Societe Nouvelle D'Affinage Des Métaux (SNAM) manage the specialist bath smelting procedure that is the basis of the recycling process for nickel cadmium. MRI is also working toward the development of processing technologies to ensure that non-battery components such as plastics can be recycled.

The following table describes the life cycle of a mobile phone in Australia, highlighting the stages from cradle to grave.

Life Cycle Stage Description
Materials & Production  
Raw materials & processing A defining moment in the life and ultimate destiny of a mobile phone. The nature and scarcity of the materials used in producing mobile phones has implications not only for the performance, safety and cost of the product, but also its impact on the ecosystems from where these raw materials are extracted. Similarly, the locations and facilities where raw materials are then processed into more elaborate manufacturing inputs would also be managed to avoid and minimize environmental concerns such as emissions to air, water and soil. Raw materials are extracted through various mining activities and processed to a state ready for pre-manufacture and specification in the production of individual components. The petrochemical industry provides the basis for plastics production.
Manufacture & assembly of components The role of design, innovation and manufacturing technology can also determine a phone's life cycle environmental impacts. In particular 'Design for Environment' (DfE) or EcoDesign can 'lock-in' positive environmental attributes from the outset while 'locking-out' problematic components or toxic substances. At Nokia, DfE "…involves procedures that minimize material and energy consumption while maximizing the possibility for reuse and recycling (

For example, Ericsson has committed to several important goals concerning the efficient use of materials while also avoiding the specification of hazardous or problematic substances that can negatively impact of the success of disassembly and recycling processes:

- use of lead-free solder in 80 per cent of new products from 2002
- implementation of Design for Environment rules
- elimination of halogenated flame retardants in PCBs from 2002
- elimination of the use of beryllium oxide in new products from 2002 (Ericsson Environment Report 2000:4)

Nokia, is actively working on phasing out certain substances with a focus on batteries. They have replaced nickel-cadmium with nickel metal hydride batteries and are working towards greater use of lithium ion batteries.

Advanced manufacturing technologies including the use of robotics enable rapid production and automation of the assembly process. The degree of efficiency associated with the assembly of mobile phones reflects a cutting edge approach compared to many other areas of manufacturing.
Distribution, Wholesale & Retail Phones are distributed for wholesale and retail according to market requirements and geographic factors. AMTA members such as Ericsson are locating production facilities closer their markets "…and producing more compact products requiring less packaging and reducing the total transport related CO2 per product weight (Ericsson Environment Report 2000: 21).
Carriers The role of carriers is pivotal in the mobile phone life cycle and clearly acknowledged by AMTA members participating in the Mobile Phone Industry Recycling Program (MPIRP). Member companies such as AAPT, Cable & Wireless Optus, Orange, Telstra, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone are all directly funding the MPIRP through a levy of 40 cents on the sale of new handsets from participating manufacturers and carriers. In particular, carriers represent the primary interface between consumers and the MPIRP. It is with the carriers and their retail outlets where consumers go to drop off their obsolete mobile phone for recycling.
Consumers As the target audience for the MPIRP, consumers are presented with a unique and environmentally sensitive option for disposing their obsolete mobile phones. Consumers are critical stakeholders in any process of protecting positive environmental values and minimising negative environmental impacts. In the pursuit of sustainable production and consumption, the need for modified social behaviour and cultural practice is paramount and imperative.

As awareness of the MPIRP continues to grow through innovative communications, the collection and recycling rates of obsolete phones will increase and in turn greater numbers will be diverted from landfill. Planet Ark's involvement in the MPIRP has introduced a significant new layer of community awareness and action that enhances the overall performance of the Program.
Service & repair The service and repair of mobile phones can play an important role in reducing premature end-of-service and ensure that the maximum possible design life is realised. While the repair of electronic devices is sometimes economically unpalatable, there are some instances where service and repair represent a logical and cost-effective means of extending product life and thus deferring problematic environmental impacts associated with premature disposal.
Collection & transport An effective collection and transport system often provides the basis for successful product recovery and recycling. The MPIRP features an elaborate network of over 1500 collection points involving participating AMTA members such as AAPT, Cable & Wireless Optus, Orange, Telstra, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone. Mobile phone handsets, batteries and accessories are deposited in bins ready for bulk collection. This collection also extends to obsolete phones from service and repair outlets, wholesalers and manufacturers. AMTA project partner, MRI, provides a collection service from all locations with all material being aggregated in a single location in each capital city. Licensed transport under the management of MRI delivers the collected goods to MRI's Melbourne facility where staff sort and segregate according to battery type (e.g. NiCad, Lithium Ion), handsets and accessories (e.g. car kits and rechargers).
Battery processing This stage represents another critical action in terms of addressing the key environmental concerns associated with mobile telephones i.e. the battery.

Once battery types have been sorted, MRI packs and ships all Nickel Cadmium and Nickel Metal Hydride batteries to France for processing by Societe Nouvelle D'Affinage Des Métaux (SNAM). Established in 1977, SNAM has a plant at St. Quentin Fallvier and also in the state of Averyon. SNAM complies with all relevant standards and is highly regarded as one of the world's specialist metals recovery companies. An export licence has been issued by The Department of the Environment and Heritage for the transboundary movement of such products. Given the current recovery rates, MRI transport a 20 foot container to SNAM approximately three times per year.

As a result of SNAM's overall processing activities a considerable volume of cadmium and nickel is recovered and reused in new manufacturing. According to SNAM: "Several hundred metric tons of cadmium, in the form of balls or sticks assaying a minimum of 99.99% purity, are returned each year to the industry's raw materials supply chain. Nickel is used for the production of ferronickel" ( SNAM is also developing a new technology to recycle rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries. These battery types are currently being stored at MRI pending licensing of their export to SNAM by The Department of the Environment and Heritage .

In terms of developing stronger in-country processing capabilities, Australian company, Pasminco, has expressed interest in developing and providing facilities in Australia.
Handset processing MRI is in the process of establishing an Australian processing facility for mobile phones and their constituent materials. The facility will mechanically process the handsets via shredding and granulation with the aim sorting and extracting steel and non-ferrous metals, precious metals and plastics.

Handsets contain a printed circuit board (PCB) containing precious metals, lead solder, copper and plastics. Extracting value from handsets remains the challenge, however MRI is demonstrating a high level of innovation in the development of processes to make the recovery and recycling process economically viable and environmentally desirable. PCBs are currently being accumulated and stored at MRI ready for processing once the facility is commissioned and operational. The opportunity to fully recover these materials for use as productive inputs in new manufacturing is a high priority for MRI and the MPIRP. The obvious application for recovered plastics includes low-grade extrusions for traffic management products and some furniture components, while the steel and non-ferrous metals would purchased by metal recyclers in Australia. Materials containing precious metals will be sent to a copper refinery for recovery of all metals.
Accessories processing MRI plans to use this as feedstock for its proposed Australian based processing facility that will mean all processing occurs in-country. The product will be sanitised to remove any hazardous components and then disassembled to recover ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as well as plastics. This material is currently in storage and accumulating at MRI's Victorian facility.
Residuals Disposal & Landfill While the majority of components are (or will be) successfully processed to maximise the recovery of materials for use in new applications, a very small quantity of solid waste material (non toxic) is occasionally sent to landfill. As recovery and recycling processes improve and the market for secondary materials expands, it is envisaged that this already small quantity will further reduce.

Key information source:

Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation - USA

The relatively small size of batteries results in inappropriate disposal practices. Many batteries, and in particular rechargeable batteries, can end up in domestic waste and municipal collections. While the composition of rechargeable batteries is shifting to a lower impact profile, the reality is that many rechargeable batteries sold in the market place and used by consumers, contain Nickel Cadmium and Nickel Metal Hydride. The hazardous substances contained in such batteries are recognised as a problematic material that needs to be more effectively diverted from the general municipal waste stream and captured for processing and reuse without any potential for causing ecological or human health problems.

In North America, the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) is a well established, non-profit company that recycles rechargeable batteries used in a range of products including: cordless power tools, cellular and cordless phones, laptop computers and camcorders. The RBRC is strong on education and promoting the environmental advantages of battery recycling.

The following case-study describing the RBRC and their activities and services is reproduced from press information provided by the RBRC. Our appreciation is extended to Theresa K. Hall, Communications Manager at the RBRC for their assistance.

About RBRC

The RBRC is a non-profit, public service organisation founded by the rechargeable power industry. RBRC's mission is to promote the recycling of portable rechargeable batteries found in many cordless electronic consumer products such as power tools, cellular and cordless phones, laptop computers, two-way radios and camcorders. RBRC's public education campaign and battery recycling program is the U.S. and Canada - Charge Up to Recycle!® - is the result of the industry's determination to conserve natural resources and prevent rechargeable batteries from entering the solid waste stream.

Educational Campaign

RBRC conducts a national public education campaign to generate awareness and enlist support of the Charge Up to Recycle!® program. The featured spokesperson for this campaign is cordless power tool expert Richard Karn, "Al" from TVs Home Improvement. Through public service announcements, national advertising and television appearances, Richard Karn is educating consumers about portable rechargeable battery recycling and encouraging them to look for RBRC's Battery Recycling Seal when purchasing rechargeable batteries and battery-powered products.

The Recycling Plans

The Charge Up to Recycle!® program offers rechargeable battery recycling through Retailers, Communities, Businesses, and Public Agencies plans.

Retail Recycling Plan: Interested retailers who sell rechargeable batteries and battery-powered products can participate in this simple, convenient recycling plan. There is no cost to participating retailers. RBRC provides all the necessary materials and pays all shipping and recycling costs. All the retailer needs to do is sign up.

Community Recycling Plan: RBRC provides communities and municipalities with information on how to operate a household battery collection program. Through RBRC's program, participating communities and municipalities can received collection containers and collateral materials at no cost.

Business & Public Agency Recycling Plan: RBRC provides business and government agencies with information on how to collect non-household portable rechargeable batteries. Shippers pay only transportation costs. RBRC pays all recycling costs.

Program Funding

The Charge Up to Recycle!® program is funded through the licensing of RBRC's Battery Recycling Seal to the rechargeable power industry. Currently, there are more than 300 RBRC Licensees whose companies represent more than 90 per cent of the rechargeable power industry. Licensees pay a fee to place the RBRC Battery Recycling Seal on their Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Li-ion and Pb batteries and/or battery powered products.

Government Support

In May 1996, U.S. Congress enacted Federal legislation known as the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act. This Act streamlines state regulatory requirements for collecting Ni-Cd batteries and encourages voluntary industry programs to recycle them. The RBRC program has received recognition, endorsements, and awards from the U.S. Conference of mayors and Keep America Beautiful. The RBRC Battery Recycling Seal has been certified by the U.S. EPA.

Canadian Program

The RBRC has developed the Charge Up to Recycle!® program in Canada in coordination with Environment Canada, natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada and every provincial and territorial Ministry of the Environment.

Retail Participation

The RBRC Charge Up to Recycle!® program is supported by many national retailers in the U.S. including: Ameritech, batteries Plus, Best Buy, Black & Decker, Cellular One, Circuit City, GTE Wireless, The Home Depot, Orchard Supply, Porter-Cable Factory Service Centers, RadioShack, Sears., Target, Wal-Mart, and Wireless Zone.

Participating retailers in Canada include: Astral Photo Images, Battery Plus, Black's Photography, Canadian Tire, Future Shop, The Home Depot, Home hardware, London Drugs, Makita Service Centers, Personal Edge/Centre du Rasoir, Motorola Dealers, RadioShack Canada, Revy and Zellers.

The RBRC also operates an telephone information service: 1-800-822-8837

Key information source: