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Govt accredits Telecom, Vodafone, 2degrees phone recycling scheme

1.       What does the TCF RE:MOBILE recycling scheme cover?

Irrespective of manufacturer – mobile phones (including battery), mobile data devices and mobile phone and smart phone accessories – this typically includes everything that comes in the box such as a charging unit, data cables and head-sets. Old phones can be dropped off for recycling at the stores of Telecommunications Carrier Forum (TCF) members Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees.

2.       How many mobile phones have been recycled this year?

Since January 2014, over 45,000 mobile phones have been recycled.

3.       What targets has the TCF set?

The TCF aims to increase volumes collected by 24% each year so we exceed over 292,000 phones a year by 2020.

The TCF aims to reduce the number of mobile phones thrown in the bin from an estimated  6% to 4% by October 2016, at which point we will review the targets. We will continue to ensure that, where we recycle a phone, 95% of the original material, by weight, is recovered for subsequent uses.

4.       How much profit goes to the Starship Foundation?

33% of the profit made by Swapkit from mobile phone recycling.

5.       Are any of the refurbished phones sold to customers in New Zealand?

No, not from this scheme. Mobiles in working order are refurbished and exported to places such as Hong Kong, China or Eastern Europe. Mobiles that can’t be repaired are recycled in line with environmental best practice.

6.       What arrangement do you have with Starship?

The Starship Foundation is currently the named beneficiary in the contract between the TCF and Swapkit. To date, the programme has collected 900,000 phones and donated $2.3 million to the Starship Foundation.


The New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF) says it's delighted Minister for the Environment Amy Adams has approved its industry mobile recycling programme as an accredited Product Stewardship Scheme.

TCF outgoing Chief Executive David Stone says the scheme – known as RE:MOBILE is the first e-waste recycling programme in the country to achieve government accreditation.

“This Government seal of approval of our programme is proof that it has met its environmental requirements for accreditation.  Now anyone who wants to recycle their phone knows that they are using an approved scheme,” he says.

Research released today in to New Zealander’s attitudes to recycling shows that one in four kiwis still do not know where to take unwanted phones or even know that they could be recycled (see survey results).

“We hope that people will be encouraged to bring in their unwanted phones to Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees stores around the country following the Government endorsement of this programme.  Over 70% of kiwis have at least one unconnected mobile in their house, this tells us that there are many phones still lying around in people’s homes,” he says.

In 2010, the TCF brought together mobile operators Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees in a collaborative partnership and the recycling programme was established.  All three mobile companies offer recycling drop-in bins and recycling envelopes at their stores.

RE:MOBILE accepts mobile phones, mobile data devices and accessories. “We are looking to extend the capability of the programme, so watch this space,” says Stone.

In Product Stewardship Schemes, parties involved in the life of a product take on responsibility for the environmental effects of their products – from the time they are produced until they are disposed of.

To gain accreditation, the TCF has agreed to key targets to reduce the number of phones going to landfill and to further encourage consumers to drop their old phones into their nearest store to ensure they get recycled. 

Under the programme,  around 80% of phones passed on for recycling are refurbished and resold elsewhere in the world, reducing the demand for new handsets and associated environmental impacts of their manufacture. 

The other 20% are deconstructed, commoditised and their component material is recovered with a better than 95% recycling rate.

By providing this form of environmentally responsible recycling, Stone says, the scheme diverts the phones and accessories away from landfill and recovers reusable material that can be used to create other products.

Scheme recycling agent Swapkit New Zealand collects and sorts the phones into those which can be used and those which are end of life. Reusable phones are sold by tender overseas, and end-of-life phones are sent to Sims Recycling Solutions and Zero Waste NZ for breakdown and recovery of component materials.

Swapkit New Zealand manager Kate Bunge says she is thrilled the government has granted accreditation to RE:MOBILE.

“This government endorsement of the programme is a win for a great scheme which helps prevent hazardous toxins from entering the environment,” she says.

A percentage of the profits from the programme go to the Starship Foundation to support Starship National Children’s Hospital and the Starship National Air Ambulance Service. 

To date, the programme has collected 900,000 phones and donated $2.3 million to the Starship Foundation.

Established in 2002, the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF) plays a vital role in the New Zealand telecommunications industry, collaboratively developing key industry standards and codes of practice that underpin the country’s digital economy.   Our objective is to actively foster cooperation among the telecommunications industry’s participants, to enable the efficient provision of regulated and non-regulated telecommunications services.

TCF Members include: 2degrees, AWACS, CallPlus, Chorus, Compass Communications, Enable Networks, FX Networks, Kordia, Northpower Fibre, NOW, Orcon, SNAP, Telecom, TrustPower, Ultrafast Fibre, UnisonFibre, Vector Communications, Vodafone and Woosh.  Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei are General Associate Members.

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