REACH is a webzine devoted to helping people live more consciously, offering articles and tips on health, community, the environment, and personal productivity and growth.

Cell Phone Recycling . . . As Easy as Saying Goodbye

Recent estimates reveal that 260 million people use a cell phone in the United States today. Furthermore, many users upgrade to newer models when their service contract ends or new, trendier features become available. All in all, more than 100 million cell phones are replaced each year. What does this mean for the environment?

According to Wirefly, a recycling web site, “Cell phone circuitry and displays can contain toxic compounds like arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, and lead. The plastic shells of the cell phones have also been treated with brominated flame retardants.” When these cell phones are thrown away, they end up in landfills, and because many of their elements don’t decompose, they can cause great environmental threats, especially as they begin to corrode.

Many people know better than to throw their cell phones away and instead stuff them in drawers or put them into storage. There’s a better way. Many cell phones can be recycled or refurbished. Even phones that are not fully recyclable can be sent to recycling facilities that will dispose of their toxic components.

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There are a variety of ways to recycle your cell phone. Organizations like Earthworks will recycle your phone for you and even pay the postage. And some companies, like Verizon and Apple, offer free cell phone and iPod recycling. Stores like Office Depot have recycling programs for cell phones and rechargeable batteries, and Whole Foods has containers near their elevators where you can drop off your phone on your way back to your car. A simple Google search will help you locate organizations that collect cell phones for various charitable causes. Could it be any easier?

One thing to remember . . . for security reasons, be sure to erase all sensitive data (like phone numbers and contact names) from your phone before you recycle it. ReCellular offers a cell phone data eraser for free.