Tuesday, January 8, 2008

It's the mobile things that count

Did you know that approximately 150 million wireless phones are replaced each year? Although our phones are some of the smallest consumer electronics that we possess, they are probably the most pervasive. How many people do you know who still do not carry a cell phone? Disposal of ever-increasing quantities of our used devices is likely becoming a significant and growing environmental threat.

I am usually the person who is gunning for the newest phone (a habit I probably don't need to continue) and don't typically struggle to find a new owner for my former gadgets, but many of us don't hesitate to toss our inactive phones in the trash bin, especially since so many of them are free with our wireless service contract or provided by our employer. I'm sure there are also countless used devices stashed in our junk drawers and offices everywhere.

The phones we use and cast aside after one or two years are composed of metals, plastics, glass, chemicals, and rechargeable batteries. Many of us even purchase customized leather, plastic or metal protective carrying cases for them. A significant number of our phones still work when we set them aside and upgrade to the newer and flashier model.

Today, the EPA launched an exciting new education campaign, "Recycle Your Cell Phone. It's An Easy Call." Hopefully, we will soon be seeing a wealth of information circulating to increase public awareness of cell phone recycling and donation opportunities, and we will see an ultimate reduction in the quantity of cell phones hitting landfills.

Some ideas to increase cell phone recycling in the workplace:

  1. Encourage teams to establish a consumer electronics recycling day, and offer to facilitate collection and green disposal of used cell phones and other electronics like VCRs and printers. To assist with this, the EPA has established partnerships with consumer electronics manufacturers (like Best Buy and Apple) that make it easy to donate or recycle our used electronics. Check out the Plug-In To eCycling website.
  2. Ask your wireless carrier whether they offer a corporate buyback program - some offer a billing credit of $50 or more for certain devices. Apply the proceeds to a green charity. ;)
  3. Organize a competitive cell phone collection event at the office and donate the proceeds to charity. Here are some organizations that help:
  • GRC Wireless Recycling pays between $0.50 and $30 per cell phone, depending on make & model.
  • Wireless…The New RecyclableTM is a national program the wireless industry supports to promote environmentally sound production and take-back of wireless devices.
  • ECO-CELL ensures that approximately 80% of the phones they collect will be refurbished and reused by first-time users abroad or by selected local organizations, such as hospital patients for emergency 911 calls
  • Sprint Project Connect is a free service for anyone with used phones, connection cards, batteries, or accessories that they no longer plan to use. All net proceeds support 4NetSafety, a program that promotes online safety for kids. To participate, simply pick up a postage-paid envelope at any Sprint store or print one here.

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