E-waste is one of the fastest growing and most environmentally hazardous elements of the U.S. garbage stream, with only 15-20 percent recycled. Mobile devices and electronic appliances contain lead, cadmium, mercury and other toxic materials that often leak into the soil or pollute the air when not recycled or disposed of properly — and most of the time they aren’t.
Just dropping your phone in the recycling box at the local electronics store doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done your eco-duty. Many so-called electronics recycling businesses are simply waste collection fronts. They gather up shipping containers full of electronics and auction them off to the highest bidder, usually in developing countries where recycling regulations are lax or non-existent. There, unskilled workers, often women and children, work in extremely unsafe conditions to strip the valuable materials from the e-waste. The rest of it ends up in the landfill anyway. Probably not what you envision as you’re tapping away on the screen of your new iPhone 5 without a care in the world.
On the following page are details and a comparison of some of the most popular cell phone recycling schemes in the United States. Use this information to make an informed decision about where to send your phone when it’s no longer of use to you. And if you’re thinking about upgrading for no reason, take a minute to think about the implications of your actions. Just because you can afford a new phone, doesn’t necessarily mean you should get one. Remember, reduce, reuse, repair and THEN recycle.
Keep reading for cell phone recycling comparisons…