They lurk in the homes of America. Sometimes in groups, they huddle in dark, forgotten spaces, void of any recent acknowledgement of worth or value, just waiting for an opportunity to roam free once again. Although they mean no harm, they are potentially dangerous.
There is no clear evidence of why they are there, what relentless subconscious force drove them to the depths of the drawer, the loneliness of the shelf, the agony of the toy box, the darkness of the broom closet. But they remain there nonetheless. . . motionless, forgotten.
Their owners compelled to shove them away in a possible fit of confusion or greed or procrastination. They could have been your best friend or your worst enemy. What are they? They are an item that at one time was considered a sign of prosperity, now just considered a sign of the times. Yes, it’s your old cell phone, and it’s time to set it free.
The most popular electronic device in the history of man, the cell phone, is soon to be the biggest contributor to the e-waste problem. Although it’s lumped in with other offenders like the PC and television, the cell phone occupies a much higher place in the e-waste disposal chain.
Cell phones once thought of as useless, happen to be the most likely candidate for widespread re-use. Many companies re-market and refurbish used cell phones into communities around the world, so they may once again be the invaluable communication tool they once were.
What’s the Danger?
There are nearly 200 million cell phone users in the US all of whom upgrade their old cell phone, on the average, every 18 months. This means that more than 11 million cell phones are retired every month in the US alone. As of this writing less than 5% of these phones are collected for reuse and recycling.
Some claim that because of the small size of the average cell phone it’s easy for a consumer to simply trash it. Maybe one person trashing a cell phone doesn’t seem like much but surveys suggest that each of the 200 million cell phone subscribers have 2.5 old cell phones shoved in a desk drawer or stored in a closet somewhere in their home or office.
Imagine if all those cell phones, 500 million in all, were discarded in household trash over the course of a year. Over 80,000 tons of additional waste would be generated. This is not common household waste that is easily broken down. It has the potential to pollute.
It is common knowledge that electronic waste, or e-waste, contains toxins that are harmful to the environment. Electronic circuit boards in cell phones contain toxins such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury; just to name a few. Research has shown that cell phones, when disposed in landfill conditions, leach hazardous levels of lead.
What’s the Solution?
Many companies, like CellForCash.com, give value to many used cell phones currently out of commission, providing simple online services convenient to consumers and businesses alike. Many organizations partner with cell phone recyclers and hold cell phone fundraisers, accepting cell phones as donations to further their cause. If all else fails there’s free recycling services. Sometimes online or through drop off locations or recycling events across the country.
Although piling up at a dramatic rate, used cell phones have a bright future. Refurbishing and recycling cell phones, a growing business, is a step in the right direction. Attempts are also underway to replace lead with a less toxic substance in the manufacturing process.
But until then something needs to be done and cell phone recycling is the best solution. So the next time you retire your old friend, don’t banish it to your household hinterlands, make an effort to recycle. It’s great for the environment and your wallet.
James Mosieur is CEO of RMS Communications Group, Inc. RMS operates several cell phone recycling websites like http://www.CellForCash.com . He has been in the electronics recycling business since 1985. James writes and speaks on cell phone recycling and related subjects particularly as they relate to the individual consumer.