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Do Your Part: Cell Phone Recycling Resources

Over the last two decades, cell phone technology has grown in leaps and bounds. Each year they become smarter, sleeker and smaller. In turn, cell phone users keen to be up to date with the latest technology tend to use cell phones for only a couple of years at a time before upgrading. But where do all the old cell phones go? Certainly, many phones are simply thrown out or left sitting around in a drawer for ages. Many of us end up with several cell phones in our homes, while in reality we may only be actively using one of them. What many people don’t realize is that cell phones can actually be recycled, along with their batteries. Throwing them away in the garbage is wasteful and can even release hazardous chemicals into the air, land and water. Although we may feel detached from the association between discarding a cell phone and succumbing to an illness, in truth many harmful chemicals released from destroyed or broken cell phone parts and batteries can contribute to causing cancer and other dangerous diseases in humans. Electronics make up the bulk of toxic waste, so it is extremely important to cut down as much as possible. There are several organizations across the nation that promote and implement cell phone recycling programs. It’s free, easy and a great way to get rid of unwanted cell phones at home. After collecting the phones, these organizations recycle them safely in many different ways. Some phones are donated, while others are refurbished, recycled or exported to other countries to be dismantled and recycled further. The most important aspect here is that the simple act of disposing of a cell phone properly can help to improve another person’s life and also protect the environment from further harm.

Facts About Cell Phones and Related Waste

  • Approximately seventy-two percent of Americans are cell-phone owners.
  • On average, cell phone users buy a new phone or replace their current cell phone about every eighteen months.
  • In the United States, the amount of cell phones that are recycled totals only around ten percent.
  • Seventy-five percent of unwanted cell phones are left in drawers at home, along with the phone charger and battery.
  • Across the country, around 130 million cell phones are obsolete and unwanted each year. This averages out to about 65,000 tons of waste!
  • Some cell phones can be salvaged and given to disabled people or battered women, so that they have quick access to emergency services.
  • Lithium-ion cell phone batteries are susceptible to exploding if left outdoors in heat or sunlight, such as in landfills.
  • The toxic chemicals that can be released into the atmosphere from discarded cell phones and their batteries are harmful to humans and other life. Some of these include cadmium, cobalt, zinc, and more, and they can remain in the environment for long periods of time.
  • Cell phone chargers can also be recycled along with the phone itself.
  • The gas emissions saved by recycling a million cell phones would equal removing over a thousand cars from the road for a full year.

What Can You Do with Old Cell Phones?

  • Drop off your cell phone (with the charger and batteries) in person to retail electronics stores such as Best Buy, Office Depot and Staples.
  • Contact your phone service provider and ask them if they have a cell phone recycling program. Some phone companies that offer this include AT&T, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and LG Electronics.
  • Mail your phone and accessories to a location that offers a recycling program.
  • Cell Phones for Soldiers uses refurbished, unwanted cell phones to allow U.S. soldiers a way of contacting their families for free.
  • Organize a community cell phone collection project through Recycle My Cell Phone and receive an info kit to help you out. 
  • Sell your old phone! Some commercial enterprises offer cash in exchange for used cell phones.
  • Drop off your cell phone at a ReCellular donation drop box.
  • Find a Call2Recycle drop off location in your area, or host one of your own!
  • Help put a stop to domestic violence by donating your phone to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for battered women.
  • After erasing your personal information from your phone, ask around and see if anyone you know could use a free cell phone.
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