Why Is It Important to Recycle Old Cell Phones?

It’s a bigger story than you think.

The scope of the problem

Due to their small size and rapid replacement cycle, cell phones are more likely to end up in the waste stream and contribute a growing portion of the toxic materials that end up in our landfills.

There are over 260 million cell phone users (85% of the population) in the U.S. alone with nearly 1 Billion currently in retirement. It has been estimated that only 10% of unwanted cell phones are recycled each year.

Health and environment

Cell phones and their accessories contain a large number of hazardous substances known as Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic Chemicals (PBTs). Included in the list of PBTs are metals (e.g. antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper and lead) which can linger in the environment for a long time and have adverse effects on human health.

Recycling cell phones reduces greenhouse gas emissions, keeps valuable material out of landfills and incinerators, and conserves natural resources. Recycling just a million cell phones reduces greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 33 cars off the road for a year.

Endangered animals

An ore called Coltan (columbite-tantalite) is a source of the element tantalum which is an essential coating for components of cell phones. This ore is often found in the Congo in the middle of endangered gorilla and elephant habitats. These animals are being killed by rebel bands mining this ore. The U.N. has reported that in the past five years, the eastern lowland gorilla population in the Congo has declined 90%. Reducing the demand for Coltan will help save these animals and their habitat.

The solution

Make a difference starting now!

Recycling cell phones helps the environment by saving energy and keeping useable and valuable materials out of landfills and incinerators. It also helps preserve important animal habitats by reducing the demand for Coltan. In addition to recycling cell phones and electronic waste it is critical that consumers demand conflict free electronic devices. Call or write your Representative and urge him/her to cosponsor the Conflict Minerals Trade Act HR 4128.

Watch this video by INFORM for more information about the cell phone problem and what you can do to help.

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