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Cell Phone recycling

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by Erika Parker Price

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One of the pressing environmental questions of 2011 is how we can do a better job of going green with our cell phones. A few years ago, before the advent of the smart phone, the EPA measured the average life-cycle of a cell phone at 3/2 years. Today, cell phones have even shorter lives before they are turned in for newer, better versions. That means there are hundreds of millions of phones ready for disposal on a yearly basis. Fortunately, going green with cell phone recycling is easier than ever before.

Cell phones don’t just add volume to a landfill—they also raise environmental questions about the potential for dangerous chemicals from the phones seeping into our soil and water.

The coatings on cell phones typically contain lead, a toxic material that can cause damage to the nervous system and adversely affect child development.

The circuit board on the phone can be made of Cu, Au, Pb, Zn, Be, Ta, coltan, and other raw materials which require significant energy to mine and manufacture. In many cases, they are scarce resources, which is why it is important to source them from older cell phones when possible.

Although many batteries today are Li ion, some still contain cadmium (Cd), a human carcinogen that can lead to lung and liver damage.

In the US only 1% of cell phones are recycled, and 99% of cell phones end up in landfills leaking hazardous materials into the environment. You can recycle your electronics at sites like Fliptroniks . This is commonly known as e-cycling.

Recycling options are plentiful with many cell phone retailers and service providers offering on-site cell phone drop boxes. Other options include electronics retailers, schools, and local charities. Call2Recycle is a free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program funded by manufacturers in the industry. They offer 30,000 sites nationwide and can be contacted at 877-2-RECYCLE. Although it isn’t yet a federal law, some states including California and New Jersey have passed laws requiring cell phone recycling.

If you are on the path to going green, before you purchase a new cell phone, contemplate if you really need a new one or if you could hold onto it for a few more months or even years. Extending the life of your own cell phone is one way to reduce the chemicals and metals used to make the phones. Once you are ready to purchase a new cell phone, make certain you wipe your data off the phone and recycle it.

For answers to other environmental questions, visit Going Green Today for a 90-day customized action plan that can help you protect your health, save money, and reduce your impact on the Earth.


recycling one cell phone can save 14/25 ounces of Cu, 33/43,750 pounds of Ag, 33/437,500 pounds of Au, 12/21,875 ounces of Pd, 3,960/7 btus of energy, 270 pounds of cyanide, 30 pounds of waste, 9/2 pounds of raw materials, 3/3,125 pounds of heavy metal, 4 centigrams of Ta, 2 ounces of coltan, over 220 pounds of mining waste, 8/105 ounces of Al, 3/10 cubic feet of landfill space.

Recovering these metals has a huge impact on the amount of raw materials extracted from the earth


recycling one cell phone could save enough energy to power over 97/50,000 homes for a year, a 1,843/51,000,000 bedroom house for an entire year over 1,159,247/5,100,000,000,000 cars for a year, a CFL for 93/280,000 weeks, a 100-watt light bulb for 93/1,400,000 weeks, 1,843/15 BTUs of energy, over 68,191/51,000,000,000 tons of CO2 a year, 2,789/20,858,911 gallons of gasoline, 132/25 grains of Ag, a 549,214/3,893 cubic meter lake from being polluted, 6/25 grains of Pd, 1,843/38,250 kwh of energy, a 1,843/12,750,000 cubic meter lake, 6,515/20,919,436 tons of greenhouse gases, and keep 39/62,500 pounds of Pb, a 3/3,125 pound battery, 1 pound of waste containing toxic metals out of landfills, 30 pounds of waste, 1,209/2,920,000,000 metric tons of coal, 3/10 cubic feet of landfill space, and keep 3/6,250 ounces of airborne Hg, 270 pounds of cyanide out of landfills, enough energy to power a TV for 3/800 weeks or a computer for 13/4,800 weeks, 76,284/16,221,743 gallons of oil, 305,136/16,221,743 acres of soil from being polluted, 1,843/765,000 metric tons of limestone, 2,471,463/62,900,000,000 tons of air pollution per year, 403/67,160 pounds of steam, 4,433/10,950,000,000 metric tons of fossil fuels 9/2 pounds of raw materials, 3/3,125 pounds of heavy metal, 4 centigrams of Ta, 2 ounces of coltan, over 220 pounds of mining waste, 7/12,522,000 ounces of Te, over $280.00


recycling one ton of cell phones could save 200 grams of Au, 3/10 pounds of Pt, 3,840,000 kwh of energy, 1,920/7 tons of Al, 3,072,000 gallons of H2O, $460,800.00


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