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Cell phone history

Not long ago, cell phones were a rare commodity, used mainly by business people, government officials and the elite in society. In the US, cell phone use was at 340,000 subscribers in 1985. However, technological high billions over the next few years. The cell phone explosion has led to a huge number of unused and discarded phones as people upgrade and replace their phon advances, mass production, changes in the industry and convenience have greatly increased their accessibility in the marketplace. According to CTIA Wireless Association estimates, there are currently 205 million cell phones users in the US. Studies also show that over 50 percent of children in the US own their own personal cell phones. These estimates do not include the millions of cell phones that are used by undocumented workers in the US on an annual basis.

The number of cell phones users has also rapidly increased throughout the world. In the middle of 2005, the subscribers to cell phone carriers dramatically increased and the number of total users jumped to 2.4 billion worldwide. If the numbers continue to multiply at a steady rate, the number of cell phone subscribers worldwide is expected to reach into the high billions quickly, resulting in an estimated 650 million retired phones.

Cell phone waste

When people throw their cell phones away, they usually end up in municipal landfills. Cell phones and cell phone chargers contain toxic material such as lead, mercury and cadmium, which can end up in public drinking water and food sources.

  • It is estimated that 75 percent of cell phone users don’t discard or throw their phones away, but   instead leave them sitting around the house, collecting dust in drawers.

  • According to the EPA, less than 20 percent of unwanted cell phones are recycled each year.
  • In the US, more than half a billion cell phones are ready for recycling, and more than 11 million phones are added to that total each month.

  • According to estimates, there are more than 600 million discarded cell phones in the US that are waiting to be recycled. An additional 100 million discarded cell phones will be added this year.

Benefits of recycling cell phones

  • Cell phones have valuable material inside such as plastics, gold, silver and platinum. The most valuable material is gold, which is used in the phone circuit boards. Chargers contain copper, which is less valuable but is still reusable.

  • By today’s method of strip mining, collecting one clean ounce of gold generates 79 tons of toxic waste, the equivalent of 39 cars stacked on top of each other. Recycling cell phones reduces greenhouse gas emissions and conserves natural resources such as gold.

  • Recycling just a million cell phones reduces greenhouse gas emissions in an amount that is the  equivalent to taking 1,368 cars off the road for a year.

  • If you recycle one phone, you can reclaim all the metals you need for the manufacture of a new one.

  • If all of the cell phones ready for disposal in the US are recycled, it would save enough energy to power more than 194,000 U.S. households with electricity for one year.    
  • Gold, copper and platinum are finite resources that will be exhausted in a few years, based on the current rate of extraction. Cell phone recycling offers a viable way to conserve these limited natural resources and protect the environment.         

How cell phone recycling works

Many people do not know how cell phone recycling works or where the programs are available. One method of recycling cell phones is to take the working parts of broken phones and combine them with the working parts of other used cell phones to make one ready-to-use cell phone. The rebuilt phone can then be sent back into circulation without ever needing newly manufactured parts or natural resources.

Another method of cell phone recycling is to melt down and separate components of the phone, extracting the valuable natural resources such as gold and platinum. A ton of cell phones can yield as much as 6/10 of a pound of gold, about 3/10 of a pound of platinum and palladium, and approximately 300 pounds of copper. Plastic and glass can also be recycled from used cell phones.

Ongoing Collection Programs (where phones can be discarded or mailed) are commonplace. Whether it is retailers, manufacturers, service providers, charities or state and municipal programs, phone recycling is easy and can be a great way for charities and non-profits to generate funds.


Contributor / Editor - Matt Kennedy - Refer questions to info@wastecare.com  

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