Waste Not: Recycle Your Old or Unused Mobile Phone

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Where Do All the Old Phones Go?

recycle old phonesTwenty years ago, mobile phones were expensive, difficult to operate, and too big to fit comfortably in a pocket or purse. Less than 1% of the population owned a mobile phone in 1990, and the total accumulated waste from disused and discarded cell phones could fit inside a single dumpster.

Oh, how far we’ve come! In just a couple decades, cell phones have become the fastest growing sector of the consumer electronics market, and in 2010 Americans threw away their old and unused mobile phones at an astounding rate: more than 400,000 every day!

That’s a lot of plastic, metal, silicon, and glass—potentially toxic components clogging landfills, polluting the air, and poising ground water reserves around the world.

Dealing With the Downside of a Disposable Culture

We live in a disposable culture. As new technologies proliferate, our once-beloved gadgets and gizmos struggle to hold our attention for more than a few months at a time. We crave what’s new, what’s now, and what is absolutely up-to-date. North Americans replace their mobile phones every 18 months. That means that the average American will purchase, use, and discard between 30 and 50 cell phones during his or her life.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mobile phones are the fastest growing type of waste in the United States, and each phone contains materials that are potentially hazardous to people, animals, and the environment: mercury, lead, cadmium, brominated flame retardant, and even arsenic.

Luckily, a few entrepreneurs have seized the opportunity to repurpose discarded cell phones, creating profit out of, well, garbage! Businesses such as SellCell, and non-profit organizations such as Call2Recycle offer consumers and retailers in the US, Canada, and the UK a simple way to recycle old phones, either for reuse or resale in a secondary market.

And it pays to recycle! Depending on the model and condition of your old phone, you can receive between $1 and $100. Consumers who are interested in learning more about how to sell a cell phone will be happy to learn that after they’ve received a price quote online, they simply mail their unused phone to a collection company, and receive cash within days.

ReCellular, a company that manages in-store collections programs for service providers and retailers such as Sprint PCS, T-Mobile, Best Buy, and Verizon, also maintains partnerships with prominent service organizations. Check to see if a Goodwill Industries or March of Dimes location in your area is participating in a “mobile phone drive” to raise money for charity.

By changing the prevailing attitudes about the disposability of mobile devices, companies such as SellCell and ReCellular hope to have a profound effect on the future. Our resources are precious and few, and by encouraging “automatic” cellular phone recycling (the way we automatically recycle paper, glass, and plastic) we can all make a contribution to the future health and wellness of the planet.

[Photo Via: learntoparent]

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