There are so many cell phones on the planet that we could eliminate millions and still have enough for one per person. We live in a world that has more cell phones than people, with a rate of cell phone growth that’s five times faster than population growth. With so many phones across so many countries, it’s natural that many mobile phones and their cords find their way into the garbage bin. Yet just like cans, paper, and plastics, cell phones should be recycled to preserve the environment.
One of the most important parts of a cell phone are the connecting metals used to join the battery to the computer chips. Many of these are known as rare earth metals and have odd names like neodymium and gadolinium. Despite their name, you can find rare earths in your backyard, but you have to sift through a lot of dirt in order to come up with enough metal for a single phone. China controls about 95% of all the rare earth metals used in today’s global economy thanks to a policy of aggressive mining. Since so few cell phones get recycled — the EPA reports only 11% of all phones are recycled — the new materials for each new phone need to be mined from the ground.
Recycling Those Phones
Cell phones do not need to be anchors on the environment due to the amount of metals (as well as plastic and glass) that go into each phone. Recycling programs can turn old phones into the materials needed for all manner of consumer goods, while also reducing the total energy consumption of phone producers. A single recycled cell phone provides enough power to keep a laptop for nearly two days, while a million recycled cell phones prevent the mining of 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 33 pounds of palladium, and over 35,000 pounds of copper.
Phone cords can also be recycled: the copper within each cord, as well as the rubber and plastic casing, can be re-used in a new product. Tech Dump accepts phone cords, car/wall chargers, and similar items like surge protectors, extension cords, and Christmas lights. And bonus, as a 501c3 nonprofit creating jobs for adults with barriers to employment, these are even considered a donation for a tax write-off.