This Earth Day, Make Cellphone Recycling Second Nature

This Earth Day, Make Cellphone Recycling Second Nature

The EPA estimates that there are 141 million mobile devices at end-of-life, but only 11.7 of those will be recycled.

Early cellphones allowed users to do two things: make calls and receive calls. Today, cellphones are multifunctional and essential to the way we live life: they keep us connected, entertained, informed, and organized.

But for all cellphones do for us, the relationship isn’t a long-term one and typically lasts only 24 months based on research from Recon Analytics. That’s one reason why 141 million mobile devices were ready for end-of-life management, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. EPA.

The problem is only 11.7 million—a paltry eight percent—of those mobile devices were collected for recycling, reports the U.S. EPA. Data security concerns and a lack of awareness about the available options likely contribute to this low recycling rate. When a new product launch turns a previously state-of-the-art cellphone into a paperweight, here’s how to recycle the old one.

Small device, big impact

As with other electronic devices, mobile phones rely on precious metals, copper, glass, plastic, and other materials to deliver the performance users expect. Extracting and processing these materials to manufacture cellphone components is energy-intensive and contributes to air and water pollution.

But recycling recovers these materials so they can be used in new products. The U.S. EPA estimates that recycling 1 million mobile phones reclaims 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium.

Unused, but not useless

Unwanted, but still working, devices and accessories can be traded in for cash or donated. Old cellphones can also be dropped off at a retailer, such as Best Buy, Office Depot, or Staples, or at a community electronics collection event for recycling, regardless of age or model.

Another option is to return the device to the cellphone manufacturer, service provider, or retailer. To participate in one of these take-back programs, visit the company’s website to learn more about their recycling services.

After phones are dropped off or mailed back, they are usually shipped to a recycling facility for inspection. Working devices will be refurbished and returned to service. Cellphones broken beyond repair will be taken apart and the reusable materials recovered and recycled.

Your phone, your identity

Mobile phones allow instant and unlimited access to personal and business information. A recent Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project survey revealed that:

  • 80 percent of adult cellphone users send or receive text messages on their phones
  • 50 percent send or receive emails
  • 31 percent look for health or medical information online
  • 29 percent check bank account balances or engage in online banking

This data—contact lists, emails, texts, as well as bank account and credit card information—can lead to an increased risk of identity theft and consumer fraud if left intact on a discarded device.

To reduce this risk, follow these steps prior to parting with your phone.

  • Backup the data you want to keep
  • Contact your wireless carrier to terminate your service
  • Delete stored information from the phone by following device-specific instructions
  • Remove the SIM card and shred it

For more information, contact your service provider or cellphone manufacturer. When cellphones are sent to certified electronics recyclers, such as Sims Recycling Solutions, special care is taken to ensure all data is destroyed.

Download Center

  • Monitoring and Reporting on Air Emissions for Regulators and the Real World

    When it comes to managing compliance and regulatory issues surrounding air emissions, there are no easy jobs. With interviews from practitioners from American Electric Power, Red Cedar Gathering, Trinity Consultants, and Cority, this eBook provides practical advice to advance your air emissions monitoring and reporting programs.

  • What Every EHS Professional Should Know About ESG

    Join experts from Arcadis and Cority on April 27th to learn the most common ESG reporting frameworks and how technology can help you improve reporting efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and create defensible audit trails.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Read the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get an unbiased comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • RFP Template for Waste Management Software

    Learn the essential questions to ask when evaluating waste management software solutions with this free, ready-to-use RFP template

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

Featured Webinar