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Postal rule changes threaten mobile phone recycling

Changes to postal regulations could pose a danger to mobile phone recycling - especially schemes run by charities - according to recycling companies and trade bodies.

New rules on the safe transport of lithium batteries, which are used in mobile phones, mean that the freepost envelopes often supplied to allow people to donate phones will no longer be allowed for this purpose.

The lithium batteries have been known to catch fire and are perceived as particularly dangerous when stowed in aeroplane holds, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

The trade association for the communications industry, Federation of Communication Services (FCS), which also runs the Mobile Takeback Forum, said that the changes could cut the number of people recycling mobile phones.

Chief executive of the FCS, Chris Pateman, told MRW: “The system where charities give out envelopes needs very little effort from people, they just put it in the post box, but if people have to wrap it and go to the post office and it becomes more hassle, they are more likely to put the phones in the bin.

“The new rules are likely to put the costs up which impacts the margin in recycling, and for charities it is probably a significant income stream. What other alternative methods are there for capturing end of life products like this?”

One company that processes electrical and electronic waste, including mobile phones, told MRW that the success of its partnership with charities was the simplicity of the envelope posting system which helped it collect 120,000 mobile phones last year.

According to the new regulations, which came into force in January, “equipment containing cells or batteries must be packed in strong rigid packaging and must be secured against movement within the outer packaging and packed to prevent accidental activation”.

The recycling company, which prefered to go unnamed, said it was in talks with Royal Mail to try to reach a more practical solution that would not deter mobile phone recycling.

Royal Mail told MRW it continues to engage in dialogue with customers to ensure that they are compliant with the new rules when posting items in the mail.

Royal Mail agreed the updated rules with The Civil Aviation Authority, Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

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