You can profoundly impact the environment by your cell phone habits. Your cell phone is a tiny compartment of precious and toxic metals. There are over 140 million cell phones in use in the United States alone. Being the tech junkies we are, Americans get a new phone approximately every 14 months. We are a consumer driven society driven by the latest and greatest technology.
Before you run to the wireless store, take this into consideration. Last year more than 100 million cell phones were discarded, while only 10% were recycled. The threat of the toxic chemicals that these cell phones contain are lead, arsenic, cadmium, antimony, copper, and worst of all Tantalum. Tantalum, links our tiny piece of handheld convenience to the Congo in Africa. Tantalum is a metal made from Metallic Ore Columbite. This precious metal is what allows your phone to run and store data. The fierce demand has fueled civil wars and decimated the gorilla population. The gorilla’s habitat is being clear cut and mined, this leaves the gorillas hungry and vulnerable to trappers.
More cell phone companies are making an effort to recycle phones. Some carriers have an easy drop while others you may have to ask. If you desperately need a new phone, think about getting a refurbished phone. If your carrier does none of the above, look into recycling centers in your area. It is convenient to turn them in and they pay you for your used phone. I made $60 off of two very old phones that sat in my drawer for years. You may also want to consider donating your phone to a philanthropic cause such as Cellphonesforsoldiers.com.
Recycling phones is a type of urban mining for all the gold, silver, and copper that can be extracted. Who knows, a couple years from now you might see signs from your local jeweler, that reads, “cash for phones.”
Sources: “Congos Colton Rush,” BBC News 8/2001