In today’s down economy it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to be environmentally conscious. Let’s face it, going green often means shelling out more of your own green. At the same time, it’s also becoming more difficult for people to afford charitable donations. In the case of old cell phones, however, it’s possible to be both green and charitable at the same time by recycling your old phone. Or, in the case of a broken cell phone, you can save yourself a lot of money and be earth-friendly by repairing your phone.
Let’s start with recycling. According to an article from the EPA, “Recycling cell phones helps the environment by saving energy and keeping…valuable materials out of landfills…”*
These “valuable materials” include such precious metals as gold, silver, and copper. Cell phones also contain a host of other metals as well as plastic. All of these materials require mining to obtain the raw materials and a significant amount of energy for extraction and refining. According to the EPA, if the estimated 100 million cell phones ready for disposal in the U.S. were salvaged, we’d save enough energy to power 18,500 U.S. homes for a year.
In addition to the mining and energy savings, people should also be aware of the hazardous materials contained in cell phones. This includes such substances as arsenic and lead. Putting these items into our landfills and incinerators has the potential to harm both our water and air supplies.
National Geographic has written an article on one particular element of cell phones: Coltan. This metal is found in the Congo of central Africa and it’s mining has significantly reduced habitat for a number of species. Most notably the African Gorilla.**
So what can you do about this? First and foremost, don’t just throw your cell phone away. If you have upgraded phones and want to get rid of your existing one, there are a number of non-profits that would love to have your phone.
One such organization is Eco-Cell. They offer a number of recycling centers throughout the country as well as free shipping if you don’t live near a recycling center. Working phones or phones that can be refurbished are donated to people in need (such as recently released hospital patients for emergency 911 calls). Phones that can’t be refurbished are recycled for their materials.
Another organization is Cell Phone for Soldiers which allows you to donate your old cell phone to a soldier serving oversees. They’ve partnered with AT&T who then provides pre-paid calling cards for these soldiers so they can call home from anywhere, any time.
What if you need a new phone because you broke your existing one? Your cell phone provider will most likely tell you it’s garbage and that you need to buy a new phone. There is another option: Repair the phone yourself or find a professional service, like Jet City Devices of Chicago and Seattle, to do it for you.
According to Matt McCormic, owner of Jet City Devices, “We frequently talk to customers that have bought 2 or 3 new phones before discovering our service. This is a shame for two reasons. First, people have just thrown those broken phones away. Secondly, they paid $300 or more for each new phone when they could have simply repaired the phones for much less. In other words, they threw away their phones and a lot of their own money.”
The next time you upgrade phones or break your existing phone, don’t throw the old phone away. Contact Eco-Cell to find out how to recycle your phone, give it to a worthy cause like Cell Phones for Soldiers, or do an Internet search for someone to repair your phone.