Make a Resolution to Recycle Old Cell Phones

Carl Weinschenk

Of course, it's a time-honored tradition to make resolutions for the year ahead. Here is a great one think about: Root around in drawers, store rooms and elsewhere and recycle cell phones. And-by all means-if you are trading up (or, in this economy, trading down), don't throw the old cell phone in the trash.


Here are a few articles that lay out the rationales for recycling phones and, better yet, provides input on just where to do it. Investors Daily begins with the fact that Americans buy more than 100 million cell phones each year. Most of these, of course, are replacements. The story offers capsules on programs from Verizon, Eco-Cell, CollectiveGood, ReCellular, Cell Phones for Soldiers, and CashOldPhones. Indeed, there seem to be more recycling sites on the Internet than there were a couple of years ago. Others can be found here, here and here.


It's impossible to learn about the growing mountain of abandoned cell phones without worrying. A bit of solace can be found in this Inform video on what happens to recycled phones. The commentary accompanying the piece, which is embedded at a PaceButler Corp. blog, lauds Apple for doing a good job of following environmental standards. The piece contains links to related articles. My favorite fact from the video: There is enough gold in 200 cell phones to make a ring.


There are two reasons that recycling is a good idea. One is that the phones still work and can be employed by the poor, soldiers far from home and others. The other reason is that phones tossed in the trash are lethal weapons. One hundred million is a lot of anything, especially if each of the objects contain a laundry list of dangerous substances.


Artipot has the scientific lowdown. Cell phones contain antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc and brominated flame retardants. The thoroughly depressing report says that these are persistent bioaccumulative toxins-BPTS-that remain in the environment for years. Scan the piece for a scare-filled tour de force. The writer certainly proves the point that an article containing the phrases "drinking water," "central nervous system," "kidneys," "immune system," "development disorders in children" and "carcinogen" doesn't provide a lot of chuckles.


This piece goes beyond cell phones to look at the broader world of electronic waste. The facts it presents are not documented, but interesting nonetheless. The writer says that 90 percent of electronics are disposed of improperly. Only 2 percent of landfills are comprised of electronic waste, but they are the source of about 70 percent of the toxins that leech into the water supply. The writer provides two quick tips: That it is vital to delete all personal information and that Goodwill Industries will recycle and sell used PCs.


It's almost a new year. The best resolutions are those that help others. Providing phones to those who can use them-and keeping them out of the trash can-is a great way to start.

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