How To Responsibly Recycle Your Cell Phone

by heather

I might be one of the dozen or so people left in this country who don’t have a cell phone. Well, I do have one of those pay-as-you-go phones, but it’s dead and out of minutes, so I don’t count it.

Discounting myself and a handful of other crazy people, most adults do have a cell phone these days. And, a large majority of teenagers have them as well.

Have you ever stopped and thought about how many cell phones that is?

Our Cell Phone Addiction

The International Association for the Wireless Communications Industry (CTIA) gives us some fast facts to mull over:

  • 263 million Americans have a cell phone plan
  • 84% of the population has a wireless phone
  • Almost 16% of households use their cell phone as their primary phone

And how’s this…according to MSNBC, Korea now has almost as many cell phones as it has people. 93% of the people in that country have a cell phone. In fact, the average household has 2.75 cell phones.

Needless to say, there are literally billions of cell phones all over the world, and the EPA estimates that only 10% of those cell phones are ever recycled. They state…

If all of the 100 million cell phones ready for end of life management in the U.S. are recycled, we could save enough energy to power more than 19,500 U.S. households with electricity for one year.

Our Toxic Cell Phones

Our cell phones are full of toxic chemicals. The Computer TakeBack program estimates that over 130 million cell phones are thrown away each year, which means that’s a lot of really nasty pollutants that end up in our landfills.

What’s in that little gadget?

  • Arsenic
  • Antimony
  • Beryllium
  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Lead
  • Nickel

The leachate produced by these chemicals is truly a toxic brew.

Get Cash For Your Cell Phone

If you have a relatively new cell phone (or other electronic devices like satellite radio, computer, digital camera, or gps) then you can get cash for recycling them at Gazelle.

Gazelle is really cool. You get cash, and they recycle, refurbish, or resell your old electronics.

Although they haven’t signed the Electronics Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship (more on that below), they do pledge that nothing they take in every goes into a landfill.

How much can you earn? Well, it varies depending on what you send in. But Gazelle claims that their average payout per person is $115. And, they even send you a box and pay for shipping. It’s quick, profitable, and super easy.

Don’t Recycle Until You Read This…

So, ready to do some good and recycle your cell phone? Excellent. Let me bring up one more important point before we dive in.

Many cell phone recyclers (and electronics recyclers in general) are scammers. Instead of responsibly recycling your cell phone (like they promise) they instead ship them off to China or Africa to get dumped into a landfill. It’s a cheaper process for them, but is obviously very bad for the environment.

Now is the moment when you narrow your eyes, glare off into the distance, and call them “jerks” in your head. We’ll wait a moment…

Whew, I feel a bit better after that. Let’s move on…

These jerky scammers are why it’s so important to find recyclers that have signed the Electronics Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship. This stewardship was created by a partnership between the Basel Action Network (BAN) and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. Once a company has signed this pledge, they are forbidden from shipping electronics overseas, or putting the electronics in a landfill or incinerator. They’re forced to be responsible.

If you’d like a complete list of certified e-Steward electronics recyclers, as well as where you can mail in or drop off your cell phone for responsible recycling, you can see it here.

Other Cell Phone Recycling Resources

Check out these resources; some are drop off, some are mail in, and some are refurbish sites, but they’re all good for the environment:

  • RecycleMyCellPhone.org– This organization is a certified e-Steward, so you can recycle here with peace of mind.
  • Cell Phones For Soldiers– This organization refurbishes cell phones to send to soldiers overseas so they can call their families back home.
  • We Recycle!– This is another organization that’s certified through e-Stewards program.

Now, there are many more cell phone recycling resources than this. But, I was reluctant to put down any that didn’t state exactly what they do with their phones. My best piece of advice is to use the e-Steward link to find a certified recycler. That way you’ll ensure that your electronics won’t end up in a dump in Africa.

If you live far away from any of the retailers on the e-Steward list, keep scrolling down the page. There’s a comprehensive list of certified recyclers that accept mail-in electronics.

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