Have you heard of cell phone pollution?

It seems these days that you can’t go anywhere outside your home without seeing someone walking down the street or driving their car without talking on their cell phone. Ever since cell phone technology improved to make cell phones much smaller than when they were first invented, you can literally see them every you look.

On average, most Americans get a new cell phone every twelve to eighteen months. Do you ever wonder what happens to your old cell phone after you turn it into your cell company when you upgrade to a new one? Usually they take out a few parts for repairs and throw the rest of it away. It’s estimated that over 120 million cell phones are thrown away every year in the United States. So not only is it annoying to always hear someone talking on their cell phone as you go about your daily life, but cell phone pollution is becoming a real concern for environmentalists as well.

The real reason that you should be concerned about what happens to your old cell phone is that they contain some pretty harsh toxins that leach into the environment when they are just tossed into a local landfill. Chemicals and parts inside the phone contain lead, arsenic, beryllium (which is linked to cancer), and copper among other things. All of these can damage the local environment because no landfill is completely safe. These chemicals can leach into the ground and contaminate the local water table, making the water unsafe to drink in large quantities.

Cell phone pieces

Photo credit: Peretz Partensky

There are many parts of your cell phone that can be recycled. From the outside plastic cover to the inside chips, there are many businesses that would be happy to take it from you and recycle what parts they can. Then they will throw away the parts that can’t be recycled, which will reduce energy usage and space at the local landfill.  There are even some companies that have been formed to take old cell phones, make sure they are in good working order, and then they donate them to people who need them but can’t afford them. (Usually a wireless carrier will also donate some free minutes as well.) Did you know that you can also simply resell your old cell phone for as much as $100, depending on what kind you have? Check out local online resources, such as Craigslist or your online newspaper, to see how much you should be able to get for your cell phone.

As you can see from this article, there are many concerns that have arisen from the popularity of cell phones. But if you just think for a moment before tossing your old phone in the trash when you upgrade to a new one each year, you can do your part to make sure you aren’t contributing to the problem.\

Editors note: There may also be a local charity you could donate your cell phone (mobile phone in Australia) to. In Australia for instance the Salvation Army accepts used mobile phones.

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