UN debates mobile phone waste hazards

The latest must-have iPhone 3G - but what of the long term environmental waste impact of our love-affair with the mobile phone?

A United Nations delegation is meeting in Indonesia to debate the urgent issue of mobile phone disposal, which may prove to be a major environmental hazard in the near future.

Over three billion mobile phones are in use worldwide, and the disposal of large numbers of unwanted mobiles is to be discussed by over 1,000 delegates from 170 countries at the meeting on the Basel Convention in Bali this week.

According to a statement by its organisers, the conference is being held to "consider adopting new sets of guidelines for the environmentally-sound management of used and end-of-life mobile phones.

"The use of mobile phones has grown exponentially from the first few users in the 1970s to... more than three billion in April, 2008. Sooner or later these phones will be discarded, whole or in parts."

Developed world at fault

"Due to its archipelagic nature, with the second longest coastline in the world, Indonesia is vulnerable to illegal traffic of transboundary hazardous waste," said the Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat, who opened the UN conference.

"Countries that export hazardous waste must be held responsible. There are many cases, such as in Africa, where this waste has killed populations of wildlife such as lions and elephants, and even children," he added.

"Developed countries that dump their waste tend to ignore the problem."