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Recycling Cell Phones Is An Easy Call

 Posted by on January 15, 2008
Jan 152008

By John DeFore

You can’t turn on a television or pick up a magazine without seeing some chic new cell phone sporting features that make it look way cooler than the little flip-top youcellphones.jpg‘ve carried for two years. But what happens to that unfashionable model once you’ve finally decided to upgrade?

For heaven’s sake, don’t throw it in the trash — not when the metals within it take so much energy to gather and could easily be reused in the next flashy must-own smartphone. (Or, alternatively, the intact phone could be passed down to consumers who’d still appreciate it.)

The Environmental Protection Agency just teamed with retailers and manufacturers on the “Recycle Your Cell Phone. It’s an Easy Call” campaign, a spinoff of their Plug-in Partners program, which encourages recycling of bigger-ticket electronics gear. Recycling large objects like TVs has an obvious impact on the environment, but the sheer number of phones out there — the New York Times recently quoted Sprint Nextel saying that there are currently more than 240 million wireless subscribers just in the U.S. — and the frequency with which they’re replaced make the tiny devices similarly significant..”

A single recycling company, ReCellular, processed 6 million phones in 2007 alone; in doing so, it raised more than $20 million for charity and kept a million pounds of material out of landfills. That number’s a drop in the bucket, though — the EPA estimates that between 100 and 130 million phones are currently unused and that getting them back into action through recycling or reuse could save enough energy to power hundreds of thousands of households.

Considering the number of recycling resources on this list, from individual phone manufacturers to mega-retailers like Best Buy and Office Depot, some of which simply have bins by the front door for drop-off recycling while shopping, you’d have to be pretty lazy to think it’s too much trouble to do the right thing with last year’s gadget.

But caveat recycler: Given the personal things your phone may know about you, be sure to wipe its memory clean and cancel its service contract before letting it out of your sight.

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