Mobile phone recycling
||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (September 2013)|
Rapid technology change, low initial cost, and even planned obsolescence have resulted in a fast-growing surplus, which contributes to the increasing amount of electronic waste around the globe. Recyclers consider electronic waste a "rapidly expanding" issue. In the United States, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills comes from discarded electronics, while electronic waste represents only 2% of America's trash in landfills.
Mobile phones are "considered hazardous waste" in California; many chemicals in such phones leach from landfills into the groundwater system. Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace claims that the soldering of the iPhone battery into its handset hinders its being recycled. It also states that its scientists found toxic phthalates on iPhone cables, and it holds that this contravenes California's Proposition 65, which requires warning labels on products exposing consumers to phthalates.
Because the United States has not ratified the Basel Convention or its Ban Amendment, and has no domestic laws forbidding the export of toxic waste, the Basel Action Network estimates that about 80% of the electronic waste directed to recycling in the U.S. does not get recycled there at all, but is put on container ships and sent to countries such as China. Guiyu in the Shantou region of China, and Delhi and Bangalore in India, have electronic waste processing areas.
Americans toss millions of cell phones each year in favor of newer technology—and all those discarded phones may be taking a toll on the environment. Electronic scrap accounts for 70 percent of the overall toxic waste currently found in landfills. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 141 million mobile phones were discarded in 2009 and only 12 million of those were collected for recycling.
A cell phone’s shelf life is only about 24 months for the average consumer. This means that newer cell phone models are constantly put up on the market to replace older ones. This is as a result of the rapid progression of technology in the mobile industry. According to Matt Ployhar of Intel, the industry is rapidly evolving, possibly even at “Moore's law pace or faster.” This means that newer cell phone models are continually on the rise of consumerism and more outdated models are likely to end up in landfills.
Most cell phones contain precious metals and plastics that can be recycled to save energy and resources that would otherwise be required to mine or manufacture. When placed in a landfill, these materials can pollute the air and contaminate soil and drinking water. Cell phone coatings are typically made of lead, which is a toxic chemical that can result in adverse health effects when exposed to it in high levels. The circuit board on cell phones can be made of copper, gold, lead, zinc, beryllium, tantalum, coltan, and other raw materials that would require significant resources to mine and manufacture. This is why it is important to recycle old cell phones and source these increasingly scarce materials whenever possible.
Electronic waste (e-waste) is a global problem; especially since many developed countries, including the U.S., ship their discarded electronic devices to less developed parts of the world. Oftentimes, the e-waste is improperly dismantled and burned, producing toxic emissions harmful to waste site workers, children, and nearby communities. Therefore, it is important for cell phone users to dispose of and recycle their devices responsibly and ethically.
EcoATM has the first phone-recycling kiosk. They maintain a database of more than 4,000 mint-condition handsets. After connecting with an appropriate cable, the machine will scrutinize the condition of the phones, offer to erase the data and dispense cash based on the resale value. 10 ecoATMs have already recycled 33,000 phones with average payout $9 per phone, and 500 more kiosks are planned.
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