Moving Against Cell Phone Pollution

Carl Weinschenk

The smart grid segment, of course, is the poster child for an industry trying to find more socially conscious ways of operating. This is a win/win/win in that the environment benefits and the energy industry saves money by more efficient operations and receives a significant image boost.


Another segment that badly is in need of more environmentally sensitive handling-and the PR boost as well-is cell phones. The reality is that we live in a world of disposable electronic devices, and each time a device is haphazardly thrown out, the environment is hurt.


Cell phones are one of the main culprits. People go through these devices with abandon, tossing, according to this CNET piece, more than 100 million annually in the United States. The popularity of the iPhone and other smartphones means that the turnover will accelerate. Each device is brimming with dangerous chemicals-such as cadmium, arsenic and mercury, according to the story-that leach from landfills into the earth and cause problems.


The story reports on a move by Sprint Nextel and Samsung that was announced in New York City. The companies introduced an ecologically friendly device, the Reclaim, which is the first to meet new environmental guidelines set by the carrier. Among other things, Sprint said that by 2017 it intends to be "recycling or reclaiming" 90 percent of the devices it has in the market. The percentage is 35 percent today, according to the story.

Sprint Nextel and Samsung aren't the first vendor and carrier to think of the environment, of course. ecomii highlights phones-some of which still are in the concept phase-that are considered to be environmentally friendly. The MOTO W233 Renew is carbon-free, the Nokia 3110 Evolve focuses on energy efficiency, the Nokia 5630 XpressMusic comes preloaded with energy-measuring applications, and the Sony Ericsson GreenHeart saves trees by carrying its user's manual in memory. Samsung makes an appearance with Blue Earth, which can be charged by a solar panel on the rear of the device.

It's a great idea to buy an environmentally conscious phone. Whether a person does so or not, they need to pay attention to the other end of the phone's life-disposal. Posts at Big Green Purse Blog and Sustain Lane offer good suggestions on what to do and where to go with old devices. The good news is that carriers will accept old phones, as will a number of retail stores. The organization Collective Good accepts donated phones, which it refurbishes.


Clearly, there is no shortage of ways in which to safely get rid of old cell phones and their batteries. The biggest unknown now is if owners are willing to take the extra time-and, in some cases, pay a few bucks-to do the right thing.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 31, 2009 3:17 AM sarah sarah  says:

I think this pollution should be controlled.Within three years it is most often that American will discard 130 million mobile phone which will create a huge pollution for society.I think environmental should actively play their role in this regard.

Sep 18, 2009 1:24 AM eric eric  says:

how about implementing a "core charge" on cell phones, just like the auto-industry uses on car parts, batteries, etc., which would encourage people to turn them in when they buy a new one.

Sep 18, 2009 1:28 AM Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk  says: in response to eric

Thanks, Eric and Sarah. I think what you are suggesting, Eric, is something like what we have here in NY and in many other states on cans and bottles: Make people pay a bit more and return that extra when they are done with the device. Then, presumably, it can be disposed of properly. Sounds smart.


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