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Recycle your cell phone

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These days there's no need to toss your cell phone, PDA, or other mobile device and add to the ever-growing mountains of e-waste. An increasing number of organizations and electronics stores with take-back recycling programs will accept them and make sure they're properly recycled.

Find it! Cell phone/PDA recycling services

There are several nationwide organizations and programs in place to collect your mobile devices, either at local drop off centers or through the mail (with prepaid postage). Check with the organization you're going to use first to make sure they take the devices you've got (some do not accept PDAs). And if none of these programs suit your e-waste disposal needs, check out Earth 911 for more recycling locations.

Recycling your electronic device helps you go green because...

  • It keeps potentially toxic components out of the environment.

By the end of 2007, the number of cell phone subscribers could reach three billion, up from the current 2.5 billion.[1] One cell phone requires about 4.5 pounds of raw materials to manufacture it, including petroleum-based plastics, liquid crystal display materials, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and toxic heavy metals including cadmium, lead, nickel, mercury, manganese, lithium, zinc, arsenic, antimony, beryllium, and copper. When these toxins seep into the environment, they can accumulate in the food chain and cause damage to plants, animals and humans.

Cell phones and other personal electronic devices have been piling up in landfills at a rate of 130 million devices per year, which creates approximately 67,000 tons of waste annually.[2] On average, cell phones are retired every 18 months. Since 2000, less than one percent of phones have been recycled or reused, and more than 500 million cell phones populate landfills now.[3][3]


The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition found that as much as 80 percent of the e-waste in the US is diverted to developing countries where the toxic materials are dumped, smashed, or burned by impoverished workers, including children, in unsafe conditions. The local area becomes contaminated and the health and safety of workers in these countries are threatened. The Basel Action Network created an Electronic Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship and lists electronics recycling companies who have signed it.

Related health issues

When cell phones are tossed into a landfill rather than recycled, they can leach several toxic chemicals that have been known to cause severe harm to humans and animals, as well as long term damage to the natural environment.

  • cadmium: Found in chip resistors, infrared detectors, and semiconductors. Toxic and bio-accumulative, this chemical can harm kidney systems.
  • lead: Used in the soldering of cell phone circuit boards, it can cause nervous system, kidney, and blood system damage. It is estimated that consumer electronics are responsible for 40 percent of the lead in landfills. From there, it can seep into our drinking water and then accumulate in the environment, affecting plants, animals, and humans.
  • mercury: Found in cell phone batteries and circuit boards, can seep into waterways. This chemical travels through the food chain and can cause brain damage.
  • brominated flame retardants (BFRs): Used on printed circuit boards and components like plastic covers and cables. Once released into the environment through leaching and incineration, cause increased rates of cancer in those who each mercury-contaminated food.

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