Over the last ten years, cell phones have become a central part of everyone’s life. Odds are that you’re reading this blog on a cell phone, or if you aren’t then you probably have your cell phone within arm’s reach. All of that technology doesn’t just exist in a vacuum - your phone is full of heavy metals and minerals that have come from somewhere and have to go somewhere. How can you reuse old cell phone tech to help save the planet?
Did you know that over one hundred and forty million cell phones end up in landfills every year? That’s almost unimaginably big. Over sixty percent of the people on the planet have a cell phone. When you realize that there are seven billion people in the world, so that means there are around four billion cell phones. That’s billion with a “b”.
Not only do a huge number of people on Earth have cell phones, there is also a constant push from everyone to upgrade their phones. It’s uncommon for people to keep a cell phone for a decade, so these become disposable products. Even in parts of the world where people reuse old cell phone technology over longer periods of time, eventually those phones still wear out and have to go somewhere. On average, a cell phone user keeps their cell phone for less than a year.
That little piece of cell phone technology in your hand is full of things you probably don’t realize. Inside are a whole host of precious metals and rare minerals. A single iPhone includes forty-six elements. Here are just a baker’s dozen.
Some of what’s in your phone is innocuous. For instance the oxygen and the potassium don’t pose a serious threat to the environment. The lead on the other hand, that has a major environmental impact. Every year, more than 80,000 pounds of lead leaches into the soil when we don’t reuse old cell phone devices. When it gets into the groundwater, that lead causes neurological damage to animals and humans who consume the water.
You don’t have to choose between your desire to be responsible for the environment and your love of your cell phones. When you reuse old cell phone products, you can minimize your impact.
The first line of defense is to use your device for as long as possible. Do you really need to upgrade this year, or is your phone still working well? When you do want to move up, you can trade in your old cell phone when you’re ready to upgrade instead of throwing it away. You can do this through your cell phone provider, a big box store, or a reputable third party. Buy refurbished cell phones whenever you can. If you have an old cell phone that doesn’t work or is too old to be sold, don’t throw it in the landfill! Instead, send it to a cell phone recycling service to keep those heavy metals out of the soil.
Being responsible for the environment doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your smartphone. It just means you need to be smart about your smartphone.