The Environmental Protection Agency has launched the National Cell Phone Recycling Week as part of the month-long Earth Day festivities. In 2007, the EPA estimates that only 10 percent of all unused cell phones were recycled, and if all 100 million unwanted phones were recycled now it would save enough energy to power 18,500 homes for one full year.
The week-long recycling event, running from April 6 through April 12, is the result of a collaboration between the EPA’s Plug-In to eCycling program and a number of phone manufacturers. Cell phones, as well as many other household electronics items, can contain lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and other materials. These metals, if dumped in a landfill, do not break down easily and can pollute soil and groundwater. The metals can often be reused if the phones are recycled properly.
Cell phone companies Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Samsung all have in-store promotions during National Cell Phone Recycling Week to encourage people to pull their old phones out of drawers—or out of the trash can—and bring them in for recycling. Keeping phones out of landfills is especially important because some of the toxins they contain are persistent bioaccumulative toxins: they stay in fatty tissue for long periods of time, making them very harmful to humans, and especially children.
Earth Day appears to be increasingly inaccurately named, with sponsored activities running throughout April, but some have always argued that every day should be Earth Day. If you want to get an early start, I don’t think you’ll be using that StarTAC in the lower drawer of your desk anymore. It’s time to let it go.