“EWaste,” is the term for computers, cell phones, game consoles, and other electronic devices which end up in the landfill. Most of these items are actually recyclable, and by turning them into
a recycling center, trading them up, or selling them outright to a business which buys unwanted electronics, especially cell phones, precious metals and other materials contained within the devices can be removed and reused.
Many of us have several old cell phones tucked away in a junk drawer. Turnover for cell phones is fast, as newer better models hit the market frequently. Additionally, as our cell phone gets damaged, or quits working, we tend to throw them in a junk drawer or in the waste bin.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA,) as Americans, we dispose of 130 million cell phones each year. An estimated 152 million cell phones were purchased by American consumers in 2014, so it's no surprise that so many old phones find their way to our andfills.
Cell phones, like computers, can be recycled however. Currently, less than 10% of cell phones are recycled. This is changing. Major phone providers and retailers are offering trade in and recycle programs. Online companies will purchase your old cell phone outright. Additionally, at least 24 states have put laws in place governing the collection and recycling of electronic devices, according to the Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse. Some of these laws require retailers and or manufacturers to act as drop offs or mail ins for old cell phones and other
electronics. These companies then can recycle the devices themselves, or sell them to
companies which specialize in electronic recycling.Some of these phones can be refurbished, but the majority of old phones are disassembled for their components. Both old school cell phones and smartphones are constructed with several materials that can be reused. Cell phones usually contain precious metals including:
These metals are used due to their ability to conduct electric currents, maintain their integrity without disintegration, and the malleability of the metals, which allow them to be made into very thin wire or other shapes without losing their conductivity or breaking.
Every 1 million cell phones 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium which can be recovered and recycled.
Computers are the larger electronic cousin of cell phones. They too, have a fast turnover rate, although it is not as significant as that of cell phones. The average lifespan of any given computer is 2 years before it is replaced. Fortunately, virtually every computer retailer and manufacturer has recycling programs in place for unwanted computers.
EWaste is a pressing concern environmentally, not only because of the quantity of it,(1.87 million tons in 2013,) but because the chemicals and materials contained in electronics are noxious, and have a negative impact on soils and other organic material. In addition to precious metals, many electronics contain lead, mercury, cadmium and nickel.
As all parties concerned have made recycling unwanted electronics easier and convenient, it is now something we can all do, without any real inconvenience, and is a better alternative to throwing away old cell phones, computers and other electronics.