Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Making a gorilla's day...

My mobile phone was recently liberated by a quick fingered opportunist. While I was a bit shocked and stressed out at the time (more so by the contemporaneous liberation of my wallet and keys) now I'm not so sure that I miss it that much. I was notorious for never having it charged, or, if I did, never hearing it ring anyway. However, The B.H. points out, fairly, that I probably should have a mobile phone in case of emergency. Its true that when I went out and came across someone in need of an ambulance the other week, it probably would have been best if I hadn't had to leave them and run to a fish and chip shop to make the call.

We have a 'spare' phone at home available for use but, I must confess, its just not as appealing as any of the multitude of shiny new upgrades available. Whats the point of a mobile phone if it can't also provide me with internet access, MP3s and blowdry my hair while its at it, right? And it looks like I'm not the only one tempted. According to the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association most people buy a new phone every 12-24 months, and there are an estimated 14.3 million unused mobile phone handsets being stored in people's homes or at work. Assuming people aren't storing useless handsets, this suggests to me that many are replacing perfectly functional phones.

So, these are some reasons I've collected to reinforce my resolve not to break my pledge not to buy new things by needlessly upgrading my mobile phone:
* think of all that metal and plastic embodied in a mobile and the energy it takes to make and import them.
* a vital ingredient in electronic capacitors is coltan - the industrial name for columbite-tantalite, a metallic ore. The majority of the world's coltan is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunately, apparently mining of coltan in the DRC has resulted in deforestation and loss of eastern lowland gorilla habitat - unsurprisingly, between this and the poaching, their numbers are dwindling. Furthermore it has been postulated that the mining, smuggling and trade of coltan in the DRC has helped finance ongoing civil conflict which millions of people have already been killed.
* mobile phones contain potentially hazardous chemicals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and brominated plastics....ie best not in landfill!
* call me old fashioned, but if I need to check my email....I've got a laptop! If I need to listen to music....I've got an i-Pod!

To address some of these problems the AMTA has set up a mobile recycling campaign - "Mobile Muster". I think that I've seen collection boxes in my local Post Office. According to the AMTA over 90% of the metals and plastics contained in a recycled mobile phone can be recovered and reused to make things like plastic fence posts and batteries. In 2008 famous gorilla conservationist Jane Gooddall also launched a mobile phone recycling program at Melbourne Zoo.

So I guess I'll be putting up with the boring old household 'standby' phone for now.....and when it dies and goes to silicone heaven* it'll be reincarnated as a fence somewhere.

See link to Mobile Muster campaign below.

Tanya Ha, ABC The Science Show, Nov 2009
Stephen Cauchi, The Age, March 22 2009
Mobile Telecommunications Industry Statement Of Commitment to Mobile Phone Recycling, found at http://www.amta.org.au

* for anyone to whom this reference is foreign....check out the BBC series Red Dwarf

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