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Donate your cell phone

By Jennifer Spero |
Donating your cell phone or PDA to a charity is a socially and ecologically wise choice, and will help others get connected without creating more waste.

Preventing waste in the first place is more beneficial than any other form of waste management‰ÛÒeven recycling. Donating a wireless device, like a cell phone or PDA, keeps the potentially harmful chemicals used in the manufacturing of these devices from being used in the first place, which means less of it in landfills. It also allows others to benefit from an unused communications device.

How to donate your cell phone

keeps the potentially harmful chemicals used in the manufacturing of these devices from being used in the first place, which means less of it in landfills. It also allows others to benefit from an unused communications device.

  • Ask a program representative how the program works, where your handset will go, and how it will be eventually disposed.
  • Make sure the program will accept your model.
  • Erase all your personal information from your device before you donate it.

Find it! Wireless donation programs

Most of these organizations double as recycling programs as well as donation programs. If the handsets can be reused, they will refurbish them and then resell them to distributors, and the profits are often directed to a charity. But keep in mind, if you can't find an organization to take your old device off your hands, consider posting it on Freecycle where you can offer it to someone else for free.

Donating your wireless device helps you go green because…

  • Donating prolongs the life of electronic devices, keeping harmful toxins out of our waste stream longer, and allows schools, non-profits, low-income families, and people in developing countries to enjoy communications equipment they might not otherwise be able to afford.

By the end of 2007, the number of worldwide cell phone subscribers could reach three billion, up from the current 2.5 billion.[1] The average American upgrades his or her cell phone every 18 months, and since 2000, less than one percent of phones have been recycled or reused.[2] More than 500 million cell phones populate landfills now, and they pile up in landfills at a rate of 130 million devices per year, which creates approximately 67,000 tons of waste annually.[2][3]

The manufacturing of one cell phone requires about 4.5 pounds of raw materials to manufacture it, including petroleum-based plastics, liquid crystal display materials, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and toxic heavy metals including cadmium, lead, nickel, mercury, manganese, lithium, zinc, arsenic, antimony, beryllium, and copper. If these toxins seep into the environment, they can make their way in the food chain and cause damage to plants, animals and humans.

Controversies

The majority of donated cell phones are redistributed in developing countries, which don't have adequate infrastructure to properly dispose of the phones when they finally burn out.

Related health issues

When cell phones are tossed into a landfill rather than recycled, they can release several toxic chemicals that have been known to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environment.

  • cadmium: Found in chip resistors, infrared detectors, and semiconductors. Toxic and bio-accumulative, this chemical can harm kidney systems.
  • lead: Used in the soldering of cell phone circuit boards, it can cause nervous system, kidney, and blood system damage. It is estimated that consumer electronics are responsible for 40 percent of the lead in landfills. From there, it can seep into our drinking water and then accumulate in the environment, affecting plants, animals, and humans.
  • mercury: Found in cell phone batteries and circuit boards, can seep into waterways. This chemical travels through the food chain and can cause brain damage.
  • brominated flame retardants (BFRs): Used on printed circuit boards and components like plastic covers and cables. Once released into the environment through leaching and incineration, cause increased rates of cancer in those who each mercury-contaminated food.

External links

Footnotes

  1. Electronic News Net - Global Mobile Phone Connections Hit 2.5 Billion
  2. IdealBite - Saying 'Ciao' to your old cell phone?
  3. US Environmental Protection Agency - The Lifecycle of a Cell Phone
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