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Got an old cell phone?

2012 January 18

cell phonesDo you know what to do with your old cell phone when it stops working or when you buy a new one?

You  might decide to keep the old one as a back-up in case or you could pass it along to a friend that might not have one.  This is a great way to recycle or reuse!

Sometimes people throw  away old cell phones in the same fashion we throw away other items we don’t use anymore. Our electronics are made up of lots of resources like metal, plastic, and glass, which can be recycled and used to make other devices. These resources are valuable and take lots of energy to make. Many electronics contain elements that take time to find in the earth’s natural environment.  By throwing away these items, we’re wasting non-renewable energy (like gas or fossil fuel) instead of trying to reuse them in some way.

Most electronics also contain parts that can’t be broken down in the environment – they aren’t biodegradable.  If they don’t biodegrade they have the potential to sit in landfills taking up more and more space.  Some may even start to leak harmful liquids and substances into the ground like lead and mercury.  These toxins can make their way into our water supply and pollute it.

What if we donated used electronics for reuse? It would extend the lives of valuable products. Recycling electronics prevents valuable materials from going into the waste stream.  One of the best way to get rid of old electronics is to recycle, reuse, and refurbish!

Here are some ways to eCycle electronics:

1. Check manufacturer’s websites for recycling programs. Sometimes you can save a percentage on your next purchase by recycling!
2. Donate electronics to charities. Some charities are even recycling old phones!
3. Ask friends or family if they want your used electronic item.
4. Check with local electronic stores for recycling kiosk.

If you have any questions or are searching for resources, check the EPA’s website on eCycling for more information:

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Laptop Recycling permalink
    January 20, 2012

    Only this type of sustained emphasis on recycling can yield positive results for the environment.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    January 21, 2012

    I am happy to see cell phone recycling centers around my town. We have drop boxes at our local grocery store as well as right in the cell phone places themselves. I have even seen a box in our local library and elementary school. I think it is really catching on! The less trash sitting around the better.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    February 1, 2012

    Finally people are starting to see that we need to be doing more and that everything in one way or another can be recycled. Recycling is no long just seperating plastic,cans, and newspaper. We are composting now and recycling old cell phones! This gives me great joy to see people finally waking up. I think that the organizations that take those cell phones and give them to returning soldiers for calls home is amazing as well. It touches my heart.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    February 1, 2012

    What a lovely blog. I will certainly be back. Please maintain writing!

  5. Anonymous permalink
    May 30, 2012

    The environment does require attention and recycling is the best way to provide it some protection.

  6. Dan permalink
    June 19, 2012

    I’d always go for any program that focuses on recycling for the sustenance of the environment. Good work!

  7. M. Downs permalink
    May 17, 2013

    I often give keep my phone as a back up or give it to a friend or family member. Another form of disposing of electronics is by donating it or giving it to a “responsible” recycle institution. However, many “responsible” recycling facilities do not properly dispose of the electronics and send the e-waste to developing countries such as China and India. The electronics contain many toxins such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, beryllium and brominated flame retardants. These hazardous substances frequently contaminate nearby water sources and, over time, become a serious problem for the citizens of that country because the majority of the toxic waste consist of elements which means they never disappear (but they may change form).Other toxic chemicals, that aren’t elements, in electronics do not break down over time and instead, accumulate in the food chain and biosphere. The toxic materials in electronics can cause cancer, reproductive disorders, and endocrine disruption. There is an organization, e-Stewards, that presents a plan to present a “globally responsible way to recycle electronics.” The e-Stewards website has a list of companies that have been verified to responsible dispose of e-waste that protects the environment. The website has a lot of beneficial information is anyone is interested. The website is .

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