Jul 12, 2009

A New Push For Cellphone Recycling

A New Push For Cellphone Recycling
When consumers upgrade to the latest model of cellphone, they rarely recycle their old handsets. If they did, we could reduce hazardous waste in landfills and save enough manufacturing energy to power more than 18,500 U.S. households for a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which estimates that just 10% of the 140 million cellphones replaced each year are recycled.

Cellphones can contain dangerous substances like lead and chromium, as well as valuable metals like copper and easily reusable plastics. Industry officials have been trying for years without success to get consumers to recycle their old phones. Now, the government is getting involved. At least 19 states have enacted laws regarding the disposal of electronic devices, a trend the industry fears will lead to a patchwork of regulations, including some that would make manufacturers responsible for their products from cradle to grave. Some of the biggest cellphone makers—Nokia, Motorola, LG, Sony Ericsson, and others—are working with the EPA to encourage recycling.

Why are consumers so reluctant to recycle cellphones? Apparently, size matters. “It’s not like a giant computer screen or television that’s taking up space in the basement or the garage,” says John Walls, vice president of CTIA–The Wireless Association. Walls notes that cellphones can be dropped off for recycling at virtually any service provider’s location. Yet Bette Fishbein of INFORM, an environmental-advocacy group, estimates that more than 1 billion unused cellphones have made their way into landfills or are collecting dust in America’s closets and drawers.

— J. Scott Orr
Courtesy of Parade Magazine
7-12-09

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