Recycling Cell Phones Helps Everyone

Published On January 17, 2013 | Green Tech

Cell phones are produced in large numbers and on a regular basis. According to, more than 1.6 billion mobile phones were made last year. With new phones frequently being released on the market, old phones are constantly being thrown out. According to Sprint, Americans only keep a phone for 18 months. What happens to the old phones? Eventually, only 10 percent of phones sold in America will end up being recycled. The rest get tossed in regular trash or garbage. An estimated 130 million cell phones wind up in the trash each year.

Recycling cell phones is a simple process. Although recycling cell phones is mandatory in some areas like Westchester County in New York, most Americans do not recycle their old phones. Recycling these devices is a great way to free up space in landfills, remove hazardous materials from the environment and can even help out charities or non-profit organizations. Even broken phones have value.

Cell Phone Materials-

Many parts within a cell phone, such as the cell phone battery, can leak hazardous material into landfills. Batteries are made of nickel, cadmium, zinc and lead. Over time, cell phones form a poisonous liquid known as leachate. This liquid gets soaked up quickly by any dirt in landfills.

Metals in leachate also seep into soil, which can then affect groundwater and local water supplies. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, every one million cell phones contains 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 35 thousand pounds of copper and 33 pounds of palladium. This is a lot of hazardous material that can quickly damage the environment.

Benefits of Used Cell Phones-

Customers are not required to disassemble and strip apart their old phones. Many industries make it their business to dismantle inoperable phones and harvest materials that can be reused. The copper lion statue in front of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was made entirely with recycled copper. Phones that can be used again are double-checked to be sure all personal data has been removed and then are sold as refurbished phones to American and international markets.

Help out the environment by considering purchasing a used or refurbished phone instead of buying the latest model. New phones take up resources in their manufacturing and burn up fossil fuels in order to transport them to market. Burning fossil fuels contributes to greenhouse gasses which causes climate change. Refurbished phones not only cost less, but work just as well as a new phone.

How to Recycle Phones-

It’s never been easier to recycle old or broken cell phones. All customers need to do is remove their SIM card and then place the phone in an electronics recycling center. Some cell phone retailers like Sprint will accept old phones as a partial payment for new phones. If you are unsure where to recycle an old cell phone, check out websites such as or, a non-profit organization that lists all recycling areas located near a given zip code.

Many charities also accept old cell phones. Animal welfare organizations, natural disaster relief and even hospitals can use old phones. The charity should be able to provide donors with receipts for tax write-offs. Be sure to remove any trace of data before giving away these mobile devices. Check out to find out what charities need cell phones.



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