With the newest iPhone (the 7) coming on the market this week, news articles show photos of dozens, even hundreds of people waiting in line to get the new gadget. What are the people in these photos doing? Most of them are looking down at their current, apparently-still-working cell phones. So where will those last-generation phones wind up next week?
As technology rapidly advances and consumers are encouraged to constantly upgrade, the amount of electronic waste, also called “e-waste,” becomes a growing problem. In fact, according to the last EPA report, over 135 million cell phones were thrown away in a single year in the U.S., with only about 17 million, or 11%, being recycled. What that means is that a lot of toxins, such as mercury and lead, are going into our landfills. It also means that we are wasting literal tons of precious metals (e.g. gold, platinum, silver) that could be recovered and reused in manufacturing, reducing the need to mine for more raw materials from the earth.
So, how can YOU help with the e-waste problem?
The average lifespan of a cell phone in the U.S. is now only 22 months! Holding onto a device for even a couple extra years can vastly cut down on your overall impact, and the average phone should keep working for 4.7 years.
Reuse is almost always better than recycling, and if your phone is not too out-of-date, you can probably sell it online. Otherwise, donate it to a responsible take-back program for refurbishing (such as Best Buy or our local Free Geek). But do it soon, before the technology is obsolete. The “stockpiling” of e-waste in junk drawers and attics prevents working electronics from fulfilling their lifespan potential.
You can bring electronics to the Boston Mountain Solid Waste District drop-offs in Prairie Grove and Springdale anytime, but for the month of September and October, you can drop off any for FREE! Also, check our events calendar for e-waste collection events in your community. Once collected, we send all of our electronics to ECS Refining in Texas, who processes them locally for reuse and recycling.