Recycle Your Cell Phone

As cell phones become more and more a staple of our society, they are beginning to compete with computers and computer monitors when it comes to who contributes the most to the world’s ever-growing e-waste problem. Toxin-laden used electronics like cell phones are being dumped into landfills at alarming rates and subsequently polluting air and groundwater supplies all across the United States.

Statistically, the average North American person buys a new cell phone about every 18-24 months, which is resulting in discarded cell phones being the fastest growing type of manufactured garbage in the entire country. These abandoned cell phones may contain hazardous materials such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and other harmful substances.

Americans throw out approximately 125 million phones every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This fact alone is responsible for some 65,000 tons of waste.

Fortunately, new electronics recyclers are stepping up to the plate to help combat the problem. A nonprofit organization called Call2Reccle offers consumers as well as retailers in the U.S. and Canada a convenient way to properly recycle old phones. Consumers can simply enter their zip code on the Call2Recycle’s website and then be directed to a nearby drop box area. Most of the bigger electronics retailers like Office Depot and Radio Shack actively participate in this program, and many even provide Call2Recycle drop-boxes in their stores. Call2Recycle gathers the discarded phones and them sells them back to the manufactures that either resell the phones after refurbishment, or use the parts for other products.

Another commendable organization is the CollectiveGood organization. They collect use cell phones, refurbish then, and them resell them to distributors and wireless carriers for use mostly in developing countries, providing affordable communication alternatives to citizens of poor nations that might not necessarily be able to otherwise purchase a cell phone. The CollectiveGood organization also recycles non-functioning batteries through their partnership with the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation. As an added bonus, when a consumer donates a phone to the CollectiveGood, they can specify which charity they would like to benefit from the donation.

Another company that actively participates in the recycling program is ReCellular, which manages the in-store collections programs of companies such as Sprint PCS, Best Buy, T-Mobile and Verizon. In addition, the company has partnerships with the March of Dimes, Easter Seals, Goodwill Industries and several other nonprofit organizations. According to Mike Newman, vice-president of ReCellular, the company is attempting to change public perception of used cell phones, in order to get consumers to think of their cell phones the same way they do about other recyclables that they may or may not actively recycle.

Although there are no federal laws in place in the United States or Canada that make cell phone recycling mandatory, there are some states and provinces that are taking their own initiative to perpetuate the practice of recycling used cell phones. Currently in California, all electronic retailers must have a cell phone recycling system implemented in order to legally sell those products. Several other states are onboard with similar policies, such as Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey and New York.