Proper Recycling Offsets Environmental Impact of High-Tech Handsets
Early handheld cell phones allowed users to do two things: make calls and receive calls. Years later, cell phones offer unprecedented functionality. No wonder more than 32 million people in the United States used a cell phone last year, according to wireless association CTIA’s figures.
Q: What possible environmental benefits can there be to recycling such a small device?
A: As with other electronic devices, mobile phones rely on a proprietary blend of precious metals, copper, glass, plastic and other materials to deliver the performance consumers expect. Extracting and processing these materials to manufacture cell phone components is energy-intensive and contributes to air and water pollution. But recycling recovers these materials so they can be used in new products. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that recycling 1 million mobile phones reclaims 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium. Plus, recycling that same number of phones saves enough energy to power more than 185 U.S. households for a year.
Q: What needs to be done with a cell phone before recycling it?
A: Mobile phones allow instant and unlimited access to personal and business information. A recent Pew Research Center study revealed that 76 percent of adult cell phone users send or receive email on their phones, 37 percent check bank balances or engage in online banking and 84 percent conduct Internet searches. This data—emails, text messages, contact lists and bank account and credit card information—can lead to an increased risk of identity theft and consumer fraud if left intact on a discarded device. To reduce this risk, follow these steps prior to recycling a phone.
- Terminate your service.
- Delete stored information from the phone by performing a factory hard reset or use a data erasing tool available on the Web.
- Remove the SIM card and shred it.
For more information, contact the service provider or cell phone manufacturer. When cell phones are sent to a certified recycler, such as Sims Recycling Solutions, special care is taken to ensure all data is destroyed.
Q: Where can cell phones be recycled?
A: An unwanted handset and accessories can be dropped off at a retailer, such as Best Buy, Office Depot or Staples, or at a Sims Recycling Solutions community electronics collection event for recycling, regardless of age or model. Another option is to return the phone to the manufacturer. To participate in a manufacturer’s take-back program, visit the company’s website to learn more about their recycling services.