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Why Recycle Cell Phones?

Recycling Cell Phones Saves Energy and Conserves Natural Resources


Recycling obsolete mobile phones
Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Recycling or reusing cell phones helps the environment by saving energy, conserving natural resources and keeping reusable materials out of landfills.

Cell Phone Recycling Helps the Environment
Cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) contain a variety of precious metals, copper, and plastics. Recycling or reusing cell phones and PDAs not only conserves these valuable materials, it also prevents air and water pollution and reduces greenhouse gas emissions that occur during manufacturing and while extracting and processing virgin materials.

Five Good Reasons to Recycle Cell Phones
Only about 10 percent of the cell phones used in the United States are recycled. We need to do better. Here's why:

Recycling just one cell phone saves enough energy to power a laptop for 44 hours.

If Americans recycled all of the 130 million cell phones that are tossed aside annually in the United States, we could save enough energy to power more than 24,000 homes for a year.

For every one million cell phones recycled, we can recover 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 33 pounds of palladium, and 35,274 pounds of copper; cell phones also contain tin, zinc and platinum.

Recycling one million cell phones also saves enough energy to provide electricity to 185 U.S. households for a year.

Cell phones, PDAs and other electronic devices also contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and brominated flame retardants. Many of those materials can be recycled and reused; none of them should go into landfills where they can contaminate air, soil and groundwater.

Recycle or Donate Your Cell Phone
Most Americans get a new cell phone every 18 to 24 months, usually when their contract expires and they qualify for a free or low-cost upgrade to a new cell phone model.

The next time you get a new cell phone, don't discard your old one or toss it into a drawer where it will just gather dust. Recycle your old cell phone or, if the cell phone and its accessories are still in good working order, consider donating them to a program that will either sell them to benefit a worthy charity or offer them to someone less fortunate. Some recycling programs also work with schools or community organizations to collect cell phones as fundraising ventures.

The markets for refurbished cell phones extend far beyond U.S. borders, providing modern communication technology to people in developing nations who would otherwise find it unaffordable.

How are Materials from Recycled Cell Phones Used?
Almost all of the materials used to manufacture cell phones—metals, plastics and rechargeable batteries—can be recovered and used to make new products.

Metals recovered from recycled cell phones are used in many different industries such as jewelry making, electronics and automotive manufacturing.

Recovered plastics are recycled into plastic components for new electronic devices and other plastic products such as garden furniture, plastic packaging and auto parts.

When rechargeable cell-phone batteries can no longer be reused, they can be recycled to make other rechargeable battery products.

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