Cell Phone Recycling

If a cell phone ends up in a landfill, or is simply discarded onto the ground or into a river, it eventually leaks toxic chemicals and contaminates communities and their water supplies.

This is why, in 2004, Californians Against Waste successfully sponsored AB 2901 (Pavley), the California Cell Phone Recycling Act. This law requires all businesses that sell cell phones to allow people to drop off their cell phones for recycling, free of charge. In 2006, Californians Against Waste successfully sponsored AB 1125 (Pavley), which added free cell phone battery recycling to these requirements.

source: CalRecycle

The California Cell Phone Recycling Act helped California achieve one of the country's highest cell phone recycling rates. In 2009, 15.3 million cell phones were sold in California, and 4.1 million were recycled: a 27 percent recycling rate. This was an improvement over 2007's 17 percent recycling rate, and the national rate of 8 percent. However, as the sale of new cell phones quickly grew, and more personal information is stored on them, cell phone recycling has struggled. In 2012, 23 million cell phones were sold in California and only 3 million were recycled: a 13 percent recycling rate.

Clearly, a lot of work must be done to inform people that they can recycle their cell phones for free at any cell phone retailer. And, of course, it's also important for them to know that trashing them is harmful to the environment. Mobile phones contain hazardous levels of lead, nickel-cadmium, and other toxic materials. Over 80% of reusable batteries are composed of nickel and cadmium. But one of the biggest challenges to cell phone recycling is the huge amounts of personal data stored on them.  Click Here for information from Consumer Reports on how to remove personal data from a cell phone you would like to recycle.

Californians Against Waste works closely with cell phone recycling companies to increase California's recycling rates, including working with local governments to increase convenient locations where people can get money back for their used cell phones. We will continue efforts to educate consumers and policymakers about ways California can increase cell phone recycling in an effort to reduce this growing source of toxic pollution.


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