Discarded beacons are costing Australian emergency authorities tens of thousands of dollars in false search and rescue missions, it has been revealed.
Five times already this year, full rescue missions have been launched after emergency signals were broadcast, only for authorities to find the beacons had previously been thrown away.
In January an older style emergency beacon activated in an Adelaide dump near the airport, resulting in a rescue chopper being tasked to find it.
Another transmitting beacon was located in a tip in Northern Tasmania after a rescue chopper was tasked to find it.
And after similar scenarios in NSW and Western Australia this year, and 48 false rescue calls in 2013, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is pleading for owners of obsolete or unwanted beacons to dispose of them correctly.
"Beacons thrown out in the rubbish can activate and tie up assets that could be needed in real search and rescue situations," said Graham Peachey, AMSA's chief executive.
"Many of these beacons are found in rubbish tips after helicopters or planes are tasked to locate them."
Mr Peachey said the helicopters were also needed for emergency medical services duties, and so any diversion to investigate false beacon activations was frustrating for crews and authorities.
"Responding to these beacon activations may result in the diversion of personnel and search assets from a real emergency," Mr Peachey said.
AMSA is also urging people to replace older style 121.5MHz distress beacons, which were phased out in 2009, as they can transmit on the aeronautical distress frequency and can disrupt air traffic control signals.
Unwanted beacons can be disposed free in collection bins at Battery World stores around Australia.