Sustainable Living & Sustainable Lifestyle

Learn how to recycle old cell phones to save the planet from harmful toxins

How to Recycle Old Cell Phones

While cell phones have revolutionized the way the world communicates, they also present am environmental hazard when people are ready to upgrade and throw their old phones away.

Cell phones – and accessories such as a cell phone case – are rapidly becoming a big part of what goes into landfills. The problem is, cell phones can contain lead, arsenic, beryllium and other toxins that can seep into landfills and eventually into the environment.

The toxins from just one cell phone can pollute 40,000 gallons of ground water, according to the Wireless Alliance, a group that specializes in the safe disposal of cell phones.

Recycle Old Cell Phones: What You Can Do

Recycle Old Cell PhonesThe most important first step when you are ready to get rid of a cell phone is to decide not to simply toss it into the trash. But then the question becomes: what to do with your old cell phone? Before you get to disposal, you’ll want to make sure your cell phone is wiped clean of all sensitive information it may contain, such as people’s phone numbers, addresses and other contact information. This can often be done by a “hard reset” or “factory reset,” as well as removing the SIM card. But you need to check with the manufacturer to be sure.

Recycling and Reuse

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that for every million cell phones that are recycled, there are large amounts of materials that can be recovered: 35,000 pounds of copper; 772 pounds of silver; 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium.

Many manufacturers will take used cell phones back, and there are many other programs to facilitate recycling.

Some manufacturers participate in the SMM Electronics Challenge administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The program encourages manufacturers and retailers to send all electronics they collect through recycling programs to EPA-approved, third-party companies that refurbish and recycle used cell phones.

There are also specific programs such as:

Box it up. The Wireless Alliance has a program in which they will send a collection box. You then place the box in a central location (at your office, for example) and let people know that the box is there as a place to drop off old cell phones.

Once the box is full, it can be taped up and sent back or a pick up can be scheduled. The cell phones collected are refurbished, reused or smelted for metals and plastics at a facility that is regulated by the EPA and meets certain standards.

Operation Gratitude. The GRC Wireless company takes used cell phones and also either refurbishes them or smelts them down into reusable parts. The proceeds from each cell phone – as much as $300 per phone in some cases – is used to finance care packages that are sent to troops overseas and Wounded Warriors here in the United States.

The care packages include food, toiletries, entertainment and personal letters of thanks for the soldier’s sacrifice.

Whatever method you choose to recycle your phone, the main point is to make sure you do so. It will result in the recovery of reusable materials and also save the environment from potentially lethal toxins.

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