Why Recycle My Mobile Device?
Recycling helps protect communities and the environment
Recycling mobile devices helps keep hazardous chemicals out of landfills and reduces the demand for new mining.
It seems like there is a new cell phone on the market everyday. Between its September release date and the end of the year the iPhone 5 alone is projected to sell more than 50 million devices, putting an equal number out of use.
Recovering the gold, silver, palladium and copper found in 50 million cell phones would reduce the demand for newly mined metals by nearly 14 tons, according to MPC.
Mobile phones contain hazardous chemicals
The toxic components of cell phones include rare earth elements, lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. If thrown in the trash and sent to incinerators or landfills, environmental contamination can occur from combustion and leaching into soil and groundwater.
Mobile phones contain conflict minerals
“Conflict minerals” refers to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is being financially supported by the sale of high demand minerals used in electronics, including cell phones. Conflict minerals are resources that are mined and used to influence and finance armed conflict, human rights abuses, and violence.
The specific minerals are tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.
Most phones aren't recycled
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
“More than 100 million cell phones are no longer used annually. If we recycled all of them, we would save enough energy to power 18,500 U.S homes for a year.”
EPA reported that in 2009, 141 million mobile devices (including cell phones, smartphones, PDAs, and pagers) were ready no longer in use. However, only 11.7 million (about 8%) devices were collected for recycling while 129 million devices were disposed.
For more information:
For more information on electronic waste management in the United States, please visit:
- EPA Cell Phone Recycling Flyer
- EPA Summary of e-Waste Recycling Data
- EPA Full Report on e-Waste Recycling
To learn more about the impacts of cell phones on EARTHblog:
- Rare Earths
- The Dodd Frank Act and Conflict Minerals
- E-Waste in Developing Countries
- Apple and Worker Rights