While Californians lead the nation in the recycling of most materials—including many electronic wastes, the recycling of the ubiquitous cell phone has languished, at the same time that the number of discarded phones has skyrocketed.
Despite a 2006 state law requiring cell phone retailers to take back old phones for recycling, many consumers are not ready to recycle their old phones at the time of purchase or upgrade. Only 13% of phones are currently being recycled.
"Most cell phones are just not getting properly recycled," said CAW Executive Director Mark Murray. "Whether out of sentimentality, security concerns or ‘just in case’, the majority of California consumers are choosing not to recycle old phones when they purchase new ones. They’re ending up in closets, desk drawers and worse, in the trash."
One company is attempting to change all that by offering both convenience and a financial incentive for consumers to recycle. ecoATM has invested in a network of recycling kiosks throughout the state of California, so consumers can recycle unwanted devices anytime. Consumers get paid cash on the spot. The machines use artificial intelligence, electronic diagnostics, and other evaluation techniques to determine a device's approximate value.
While the company has collected over 2 million devices nationwide, just in California, the company has been able to give 450,000 devices a second life by refurbishing them, and recycled nearly 200,000 devices.
Cell phones contain precious metals, like gold, silver and platinum, all of which are reusable. Each old cell phone contains roughly enough of these materials for a new cell phone or smartphone, saving the cost, energy and resources associated with mining and processing new metals.
"Convenience and incentives have proven to be the keys to recycling success," said Murray. "We already know how great this combination has driven record high recycling levels for beverage containers in California."
There is inherent market value in the engineering and materials comprised in the device. What’s more, most old cell phones are still fully functional and can be utilized in secondary markets.
The benefits of reuse and recycling go far beyond the materials we keep out of our landfills. Products reused and materials recycled conserve resources and energy, and prevent pollution by reducing the need to extract and process new raw materials. And that’s great for our environment.
Photo Credit: EcoATM