Austrian call for action on old mobile phones

Institutes demand immediate push on recycling to keep heavy metals out of waste stream

Austrian scientific institutes have urged action to prevent old mobile phones from entering the waste stream, arguing that the heavy metals in their batteries pose a serious environmental threat. The Austrian ecology institute and the technology institute at Vienna's economics university estimate that 4m phones could be being discarded in Austria, including 300 tonnes of rechargeable batteries, mainly of the nickel-cadmium (NiCad) type.

The institutes claim it will take too long for European electroscrap recycling requirements to come into force under the EU's draft WEEE directive. They are calling for a system of deposits to encourage consumers to return old mobiles rather than disposing of them. Countries such as Switzerland, Norway and the Netherlands have shown that it is possible to collect 95% of mobile batteries via retailers, they say.

An environment ministry spokesperson told ENDS Daily said it was very unlikely that the government would introduce new recycling controls ahead of the WEEE directive. We will implement the EU directive when it is passed. The only option to act earlier...is on the level of a voluntary agreement," the official said.

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