Cell Phones A Call to Responsibility

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					Cell Phones: A Call to Responsibility
By Jesi Duve and Jane Northrup; Reprinted with permission of: Jesi Duve, Holy Family
Catholic Schools, Dubuque, IA

Audience: Middle School

Applicable Subject Areas: Science, Social Studies and Language.

Description: Through student research, this lesson plan illustrates the negative impact
disposing cell phones in a landfill has on our environment. In addition, it encourages
students to recognize alternatives for cell phone disposal.


* To learn some cell phone history.

* To observe the recent trends of cell phone ownership.

* To recognize the hazards that placing cell phones in landfills has on our environment.

* To find alternative, environmentally friendly methods of disposal.

* To challenge students to keep cell phones for longer periods of time.


* Video: “Secret Life of Cell Phones”

* Cell Phone Facts Handouts (4)

* Large Paper for Presenting Information or Transparencies/Overhead

* Markers/Pens/Pencils

* Laptops

Lesson Plan
* Introduce the topic by asking the class:

* Can you think of reasons some parents buy cell phones for their children? (Answers
may include: because friends have them; to call in case of an emergency or other safety
issue; to make family transportation issues work more smoothly.)

* Can you think of reasons some parents might not buy cell phones for their kids, and/or
restrict use of cell phones? (Answers may include: concerned about safety while driving;
concerned about the loss of face-to-face conversations and interactions in American
society; cost of cell phones; want to encourage other types of activities; want their
children to earn money and buy their own cell phone to learn about financial

* Acknowledge that today the class will be talking about cell phones—their history, how
they work, how many our class owns, how cell phones are made and the environmental
impacts of cell phones. Because families have differing values and priorities, it’s likely
that some in the class have cell phones, while others do not.

* Begin by directing students to some websites that give the history of the cell phone to
provide background information. Let the students share what they have found.,29307,1636836,00.html

 * Take a poll of how many students in each class have a cell phone. Discuss some or all
of the following questions:

* If you own a cell phone, at what age did you get your first phone?

* How many have you owned? (Get the total number ever owned by the class.)

* If you don’t own a cell phone, is that your choice or your parents?

* If you don’t own a cell phone by choice, are you willing to talk about why you don’t
want one?

* How could those who do not own cell phones be “environmental heroes?”

* Watch “The Secret Life of Cell Phones.”
* From video: Ask students if there was any piece of information that really stuck out to
them, surprised them, shocked them, etc.

* Divide students into four groups and assign each group a category.

* Group 1: Basic Facts about Cell Phones/Cell Phone Use

* Group 2: What Cell Phones Are Made Of

* Group 3: Environmental Impacts of Cell Phones

* Group 4: What Are People Doing With Their Old Cell Phones?

* Using their laptops, have students research their assigned topic. (If the students are
struggling to find information on their category, use the given Fact Sheets in Appendix A
to steer them in the right direction.) Have each group write information that they feel is
important on their large sheet of paper/transparency and be ready to present the
information to their class. Tell the class to be creative in how they present. They could
draw illustrations, act some information out (if appropriate), develop a “reader’s theatre”
performance, or share the information in another compelling way, etc. After each group
has presented ask the class if they feel the information is appropriate, if they have any
additional info to add or if they have any questions.

Additional Questions

* What can you do to get the word out that cell phones CAN be recycled?

* If cell phones and other electronics are not recycled, how do you see the world 10
years from now based on what we know about their environmental impact?

* Review all the information presented to be sure all students understand the impacts of
owning a cell phone for such a short time period, and throwing old cell phones into a

* Watch “How Cell Phone Recycling Works” 1 min, 30 sec.

* Ask the students if they know where they can recycle their old cell phones?

* Most cell phone companies will collect their own old cell phones.

* Little Caesars has bags to return cell phones AND you get free crazy bread!

* Target now has a drop-off.
* Some local landfills now collect cell phones.

* Watch the public service announcement for cell phone recycling. “Recycle Your Cell

Extension Activities

       Create informational posters encouraging other students to hold on to their cell
       phones for longer periods of time. Be sure to include information on the impact
       on the environment. Hang posters in commons areas in your school.
       Hold a “Cell Phone Collection Day” at your school to ensure proper disposal.
Appendix A
Fact Sheets

                               Cell Phone Facts
                              Group 1-Info Sheet

An estimated 250 to 300 million cell phones are being used in the U.S.

 The average American cell phone user owns three (3) or more expired cell

The average US consumer only uses their current cell phone for 12 to 18

Over 70% of Americans do not know that they can recycle their old cell phone.

 In a recent survey, only 2.3% of Americans recycled their old cell phones and 7% threw
them in the garbage.

Cell phones contain precious metals such as gold and silver.

 A total of 500 million cell phones weighing an estimated 250,000 tons are
currently stockpiled and awaiting disposal.

There are 6.7 billion people in the worlds and 4.1 billion cell phones.

If everyone left their charger plugged in all day, it would waste enough electricity to
power 28,000 homes.

One hundred forty million cell phones will end up in the landfill this year! From these,
80,000 pounds of lead will end up in the ground.
Appendix 2
Cell Phone Materials

                   What Are Cell Phones Made Of…
                         Group 2-Info Sheet
The Outer Shell:


Cell Phone Batteries:

       Cadmium (human carcinogen-known to cause lung and liver damage)
       Toxic Lead

Other Parts:

       Arsenic-poisonous metal
       Beryllium-a light metal (hardening agent)
       Brominated Flame Retardants-used to prevent electronics from catching fire
       Dioxins and furans-released during production, toxic chemical
       Trace amts of Gold
       Trace amts of Silver
Appendix 3
Environmental Impacts

              Environmental Impacts of Cell Phones
                      Group 3-Info Sheet

   Cell phones contain numerous substances that need to be disposed of in a safe and
      efficient manner:

1. The Cadmium in the battery from a single old phone could seriously contaminate
600,000 gallons of water, enough to fill a third of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Cadmium is being phased out of new batteries.

2. Lead can accumulate in the environment and have a detrimental effect on plants,
animals, and humans. In humans, it causes damage to the central and peripheral nervous
systems, blood systems, and kidneys. Lead is contained in glass panels in computer
monitors and in lead soldering of printed circuit boards. Consumer electronics may be
responsible for 40% of this metal found in landfills.

3. Mercury is found on printed circuit boards), discharge lamps, and batteries. It is also
used in data transmission equipment, telecommunications, and mobile phones. When
mercury makes its way into waterways, it is transformed into methylated mercury in the
sediments and eventually ends up in food where it can cause brain damage.

4. Brominated Flame Retardants are used on printed circuit boards, components such
as plastic covers and cables. Flame retardant polybrominated biphenyls may increase
cancer risk to the of the digestive and lymph systems. Once released into the environment
through landfill leachate and incineration, they are concentrated in the food chain.
Appendix 4

Old Cell Phones

       What Are We Doing With Old Cell Phones
                 Group 4-Info Sheet
         Throwing them away?
         Sitting in a drawer/closet?
         Giving them to charities?
         Selling them?

         This group can come up with as many ideas as they can think of.

         Have other students respond to this question and the group presenting
         can add it to their list.

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