April is Earth Month, but a concerted effort on recycling mobile devices would make every month Earth Month.
Consumers love getting new cellphones. On average, they typically upgrade their phones within 24 months. But, rather than finding new use for their old devices, they either put them in a drawer or just throw them away. There is little activity when it comes to properly recycling mobile devices.
Each year, 130 million mobile devices are discarded. Only 20% of these devices are reused or properly recycled; a significant number instead turn up in landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, e-waste in the U.S. is growing at an annual rate of 8%.
The Rise in E-waste: An Avoidable Problem
What’s alarming about the rise in e-waste is that a large portion of it isn’t even waste. Those discarded devices could have been recycled, reused or even refurbished. There is a huge lack of awareness of how to contribute to a sustainable future.
So as people consider how to make a difference during Earth Month, HYLA suggests making it a 12-month initiative every year. It doesn’t require a significant amount of time; there’s no need to volunteer (not that we discourage volunteering). Rather, every consumer can help the earth by properly handling their mobile devices once they stop using them.
E-waste has devastating consequences on the environment. When phones are improperly disposed, chlorine, lead, mercury, bromine and other toxic chemicals in the devices adversely affect the earth. Devices release hydrocarbons into the air and leach toxins into grass, soil, trees, crops and groundwater when burned and dumped.
Side effects to humans and animals include coughing, vomiting, lung inflammation, shortness of breath, thyroid problems and even death. Because e-waste is a relatively new issue, many governments have yet to develop protocols and laws on device disposal.
3 Ways You Can Contribute to a Sustainable Future
It doesn’t have to be this way. Rather than tossing old devices and degrading the environment, consumers can do one of three things; Recycle, Reuse, Refurbish:
An e-waste recycler, or e-cycler, knows how to handle a used device and ensure that its hazardous chemicals are properly disposed. Also, every cellphone contains amounts of precious metals such as gold, silver and copper.
For every million cellphones that are recycled, close to 40,000 pounds in precious metals can be recovered. Not to mention, $60 million in gold, silver and copper could be saved from being thrown away.
Recycling 100 million smartphones can also save 2 KW of energy. That’s enough energy to power 25,000 homes for a full year!
Someone else can benefit from an old device if it still works properly. You can donate it to charity or sell it to a mobile device buyback program. Secondhand and refurbished phones are less expensive than new ones and are a sound alternative to those with low incomes.
HYLA, for one, distributes used mobile devices to the developing world. By trading in your old phone, you're indirectly giving people access to digital products they couldn't otherwise afford. Another advantage? You’re creating business opportunities for carriers and retailers to resell, rent, or lease used phones.
You can take some of the components of your old device and reuse them for something else. The refurbishing process consumes less energy than manufacturing brand new cellphones from new materials.
It’s not too late to consider the many environmental, economical and social benefits from recycling, reusing, refurbishing – and selling and trading in – used mobile devices. Everyone can make an impact by the next time the go to purchase a mobile phone by trading-in, recycling, reusing or refurbishing their used device. Get the facts on mobile recycling in this detailed inforgraphic.
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