Keep Toxic Cell Phones & Batteries out of Our Waste Stream


Cell phones and batteries are some of the largest contributors of toxic substances to our landfills. More than 13 million cell phones become obsolete in California every year, and historically only 7% have been recycled. Mobile phones contain hazardous levels of lead, nickel-cadmium, and other toxic materials. Over 80% of reusable batteries are composed of the hazardous heavy metals nickel and cadmium. While these and other rechargeable batteries have been banned from disposal in California for several years, recycling opportunities have lagged.

Less than 20% of rechargeable batteries are currently recycled. In 2004, more than 34,000 tons of batteries were landfilled in California. In 2004, more than 93,000 tons of toxic portable electronics-including cell phones-were landfilled in California. 

In 2006, CAW-sponsored legislation offered a solution. Since the enactment of two landmark CAW-sponsored bills, retailers are now required to take back rechargeable batteries and cell phones for recycling. Though an important step, these measures only cover a portion of the growing toxic wasterberg plaguing our waste stream.

AB 2901 (Pavley, 2004) Cell Phone Takeback and Recycling
This law requires some of California's largest cell phone retailers to embrace the takeback/recycling model and collect used cell phones, at no cost to the consumer, to be reused, recycled or properly disposed.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) estimates that of the 18 million cell phones sold in California in 2010, 3.7 million were recycled, for a 21% recycling rate. This is up from 2007, which had 17% recycling rate. To put this number into perspective, the national recycling rate is 10%, according to the U.S. EPA.

AB 1125 (Pavley, 2005) Rechargeable Battery Takeback and Recycling
AB 1125 was modeled after the same takeback concept of the cell phone bill. AB 1125 requires all retailers that sell rechargeable batteries to accept back used rechargeable batteries at no cost to the consumer.

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