How to Recycle Old Cell Phones


Authored by Jayant Row in Environment, Gadgets
Published on 04-05-2009

Most Americans change their cell phone every 2 years or so. So what happens to the old cell phones? They contain a number of hazardous eco unfriendly materials like lead, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants and arsenic. So if they are just dumped in the trash, they could become a major pollutant and add to the world’s already growing problem of e-waste. It is estimated that in America alone more than a hundred million cell phones are discarded and these add almost 60000 tons to the toxic waste across the country. There is however a glimmer of hope in the fact that a new generation of nonprofit organizations called electronic recyclers who see opportunity in this, have come into the picture.

These organizations resell these old cell phones to distributors in developing countries where such cell phones have a ready market. They do this after refurbishing and sell the phones or cannibalize them so that new cell phones can be made from the parts thus obtained. This even includes batteries which are similarly recycled.

The problem of disposal of old cell phones has achieved such great proportions that a number of countries are putting in place laws that will prevent any distributor from selling new phones unless he has such a recycling system in place. It is already illegal to dispose of nickel cadmium batteries as cadmium is considered toxic, but the problem is being eased by manufacturers shifting to the more eco friendly lithium batteries.

There are a lot of small charitable organizations which will also accept your old cell phone so that you are spared the problem of looking for a recycler. Cell phone manufacturers have discovered that they and the service providers can collaborate to implement recycling programs, by giving the customer some benefit when he buys a new model and the distributors take back the old phone. Once this has a legal backing, the recycling of old cell phones will get a boost and reduce the huge problem of e-waste that these old cell phones present at the moment. Surveys have indicated that 90 percent of the people will opt for such recycling if the places where they can drop them off are conveniently located. Fortunately cell phone scrap still has a positive value and this easily takes care of the costs that organizations have to incur in their collection and redistribution or recycling.

The biggest problem in the recycling cell phones business is setting up collection points and arranging to collect and dispose of the cell phones to the recyclers. There are organizations on the web which will advise you on these matters and even suggest likely locations for you. They would even advise you how you could further dispose of these collected old cell phones and send them to a recycler who would refurbish them or cannibalize them. So this could be a new business for you if you are so inclined. And with the tremendous growth that is being witnessed in the communications world, this business is likely to have a very long cycle of success.


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