Cell Phone recycling

Now If Only It Could Cook, Too?

By Lina Younes

I’ve been looking at ads for new cell phones lately. Our family cell phone plan is up for renewal, so now is a good time to see what all these communication gadgets have to offer. In our family discussions, we are exploring our telephone needs and new options while staying on a reasonable budget. Do we want just a basic phone plan? How much texting do we need? Do we need the latest version of smart phones? Do we need a super camera? Are we looking for great graphics capabilities? Bluetooth capability? How many hours of talk time before recharging? How about all those mobile apps?

It’s funny how our mobile needs have changed over the years. I remember the first mobile phones were pretty big and clunky. The best thing about those first wireless devices was to be able to reach family and friends from any location, especially in an emergency. With time, mobile phones have become much smaller and have acquired multiple features that were impossible just a few years back. Yes, thanks to all communications engineers for developing this mobile technology.

As I look at all these cool apps available today, I would like to highlight EPA’s green mobile features. Please check out our mobile site for information on EPA’s news, connecting to EPA’s social media sites, our environmental tips, and special apps that can help you check out the daily forecast for the UV index and learn about the environment in your area. I find it amusing how my youngest discusses mobile apps as if they always existed. I still marvel at the technology. They seem to do everything under the sun. Now if they could only cook, I might consider getting the most advanced smart phone!

If you decide to purchase new cell phones during this holiday season, don’t forget to recycle your old ones! We definitely want to keep usable materials out of landfills and turn them into new products. There might be a local cell phone drop off center near you. Check out our recycling video for some green fun and more information on ecycling.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Saying Goodbye to an Old, Clunky, Digital Friend

My first cell phone was a clunky, monstrous thing that looked like a cross between a radio and a remote control. I barely ever used it, and as I upgraded to sleeker, more versatile phones year after year, Ol’ Clunky sat in a box in my closet, gathering dust. When my phone took a plunge into the sink recently, I took out my box of forgotten cell phones for a temporary replacement. To my dismay, the only cell phone that still worked was Ol’ Clunky.

My friends regarded my use of this decade-old device with awed reverence. “You realize that this should be in a museum, right?” They would ask. A better question to ask would be, “Why do you have a box-full of broken cell phones,” and “Why haven’t you bothered to recycle any of them?” I don’t have good answers to these questions, but I do know that for this year’s EPA National Cell Phone Recycling Week, which runs from Monday 4/5- Sunday 4/11, I’ll be dropping my old cell phones off at the nearest cell-phone recycling spot.

EPA and its Plug-In partners, including AT&T, Best Buy, LG Electronics, Samsung Mobile, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and RecyleBank, are holding a series of activities across the country during National Cell Phone Recycling Week. From in-store collection events to mail-in opportunities, people can unload all their unwanted cellular devices and benefit the environment at the same time. By recycling cell phones, we conserve materials, prevent air and water pollution, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that occur during the manufacturing process. When cell phones are recycled, the precious metals, copper, and plastics are used to create new cell phones. Judging by how heavy Ol’ Clunky is, he might very well contain a decent amount of recyclable materials.

On average, only 10 percent of cell phones are recycled annually, with an estimated 58 million cell phones sitting in storage and not being used. While I know I should have recycled my devices eons ago, better late than never, right? I guess I’ll miss Ol’ Clunky, but I know he and I will meet again one day. Only this time, he’ll be part of a snazzier, upgraded phone, and not some forgotten relic in back of my closet.

For information on National Cell Phone Recycling Week:
www.epa.gov/cellphones

For information on where you can donate or recycle your cell phones:
www.epa.gov/ecycling

About the author: Felicia Chou is a Program Analyst in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery and has been hoarding her old cell phones since 2002.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Climate for Action: Put Your Old Cell Phones to Good Use

About the Author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

Cell phones are, on average, only used for 1 ½ years before they are replaced. However, only 10 percent of our replaced cell phones are actually recycled each year. According to the EPA, most people are not recycling their old cell phones because they are unsure of what they should do with them. For this reason, many people either save or throw out their old phones.

Fortunately, for the many of us looking to get rid of our old phones, recyclers have been able to make things easy for us. Many organizations will take our old cell phones and pay us for them. There are also many organizations that promise to help others if we donate our old cell phones to them. Here are a couple of the websites that will use our donated phones to benefit others:Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer

  • The Collective Good website allows you to donate your phones to charities. Additionally, they promise to plant a tree for every box of cell phones they receive from you.
  • Donate your cell phones to American soldiers and you can help connect them with their families and friends overseas.
  • GRC Recycling is a website that will use your donated cell phones to support many charitable non-profit organizations.

Also visit http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/partnerships/plugin/cellphone/cell-recycling-locations.htm for lists of additional recyclers.

By donating your old cell phones to these or similar organizations, you will not only help a lot of people, but you will be able to help the environment too. 150 million cell phones are taken out of service each year, if Americans recycled just 2/3 of those cell phones, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 630,667 tons of CO2 and save enough energy to power more than 194,000 U.S. homes for a year. Donating your old cell phones is one easy way that we can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy. Informing your friends of where they can recycle their old cell phones or starting a collection at your school are both easy things that you can do to become a climate ambassador. I know that you probably have a lot of other great recycling ideas. What do you do with your old cell phones? Is there something that can be done at your school or in your community? Let us know your ideas on how we can reduce the waste we create from constantly replacing our cell phones. Also, check out what other things you can do to become a climate ambassador.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.