The Environmental Benefits of Recycling Smartphones
Recycling is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. It makes perfect sense to squeeze as much as you can out of the materials you use in everyday life. It’s efficient and saves money. This brings up the question of cell phones. Carriers, video game companies and other tech sellers are always pushing their buyback program. Send in your phone and get a certain percentage off of your upgrade. They make a decent chunk of change off of them selling it to bigger entities but so do you. However, there are other reasons why you should recycle your cell phone.
To begin, the components of cellphones are very useful metals and plastics that can be used for a variety of functions. By conserving them, they can be used again to build virtually whatever they’re needed for, and the discarded materials don’t have a chance of polluting anything. The best part of the recycling is how it protects our dwindling ozone layer. To mine and acquire these materials from their natural state emits a lot of greenhouse gasses and recycling cuts them down profusely.
In the United States alone, not even 90% of the phones are recycled which is abysmal. Imagine how much power we could harness if people knew more about what they have in their handheld devices. One cell phone can save enough power to charge a laptop for more than 2 days! If every American recycled their phone, enough energy could be saved to power the homes for 100,000 people. Even if just 1/360th of the population recycled their phones, it would save 18 tons of copper and a literal goldmine of other precious metals. Not to mention that cell phones aren’t completely harmless.
As it stands, almost half of the world uses the internet or uses a computer in their home. More phones exist than there are people on the planet and prices for electronics are only dropping. This year alone 50 million tons of e-waste was produced globally and annually about 54 billion dollars worth of waste isn’t recycled properly.
That’s the same as almost 10 pyramids of Giza. What’s worse is that the rate of growth for waste is almost 10% and is the fastest of any type of recyclable. It includes everything ranging from phones and smartwatches to washers and dryers. Essentially, if it needs to be powered by electricity than it’s e-waste more likely than not.
Here’s how you can contribute
Well, I’ve already alerted you about the dangers of not recycling so now I will come with some solutions. The life of a cell phone is just around 2 years. After that people usually start running to the store to get the latest tech possible. But, that means they either throw their phone in the garbage or keep it somewhere never to be heard of again. Both of these courses of action are terrible, so what can you do?
Next time you go in for an upgrade, you can do a couple of things. If you’re in the EU, it is regulated by law that retailers must accept the old model of something they’ve sold you and dispose of it in the correct manner. The management can feign ignorance all they’d like but there’s plenty of information online about Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment(WEEE) directive that talks all about it. It doesn’t apply to just cellphones either, electric scooters, drones, game consoles, you name it and they have to take it.
You could also just keep your e-waste but in a place, you’ll remember it. By 2020 in the U.K, 85% of their e-waste will have to be recycled. But then innovation will have evolved hopefully and there will be more proper ways to dispose of your gadgets. Another method one can undertake is to be more thoughtful of who you buy with and try to extend your phone’s life as long as possible. There are guides that have lists of companies that use sustainable materials and less problematic ones in the first place. Also, in your local area, there might be what are known as “repair cafes”. They teach you how to get the most life out of your phone as well as how to repair it if needed.
For donations, there are plenty of programs you can find that make use of what you give them. Some take in phones and use the money to give to charity or refurbish it to give to people who can’t afford one otherwise. Apple alone saved almost 100 million pounds of e-waste in one year which included a humongous amount of precious metals and other reusable materials.
Stewart McGrenary is Managing Director at Phonesmart Ltd. Plunc.com is one of the UK’s most trusted recyclers for high-end tech products. They also have a quick guide on how to wipe your data for the most common phones and tablets before sending it for the recycling.