Drop Off Your Phone Green Up Your Life
Donate Your Used Cell Phone
Help Our Environment
Get A Chance To Win!
Bring Your Cell Phone, smartphone, PDA & Blackberry
To The Green Living Show
Your Used Cell Phone Can Have A Second Life
You Can Help Achieve The Environmental & Social Benefits
Of Cell Phone Reuse
That cell phone you just replaced:
Can have a ‘second communications life’,
Can help reduce our environmental and carbon footprint,
Can reduce our demand for non-renewable resources,
Can minimize disposal impacts.
If you're like most people, you probably have an old cell phone or two hidden in a closet or the back of a desk
drawer somewhere. In a few months or years, you'll rediscover these hidden phones and because they have
no further use to you, they will most likely end up in your garbage bin and then find their way to the local landfill
or incinerator for disposal.
But there's a better, far more environmentally and socially responsible and even potentially profitable way to
dispose of your used cell phones. Collection and recovery of late model cell phones for reuse is the answer.
We all have a cell phone (…or 2 or 3)
Today about 21 million Canadians subscribe to cellular communications services and each of us, on
average keeps our cell phone for about 24 months. That means about 10 million phones are replaced
in Canada each year!
But, studies and surveys suggest that only about one-in-ten of these are reused or recycled. What
happens to the rest? We all know the answer, because we all have a few ‘lying around’ at home or at
our office. The studies suggest that over 60% of the replaced handsets are ‘stored’ in a closet or desk
or are thrown away, while the rest (less than a third) are ‘handed down’ to a family member or given to
a friend and will eventually find their way to ‘storage’ and, finally disposal.
So, each year about 9 million cell phone handsets are not reused or recycled with most just ‘going to
waste’. And each year these are added to an estimated 40 to 50 million old and used cell phones being
stockpiled and left in storage in Canada.
And, when replaced they should not ‘go in the garbage’
To be sure, cell phones, smartphones, Blackberries and other PDAs should not be thrown away. Like
other electronic wastes, their electronic components, circuit boards and batteries contain hazardous,
toxic and harmful heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium. And chemicals like brominated flame
retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are also found in plastic casings of most cell phones.
Many of these elements are carcinogenic, can cause developmental problems or are health risks to
humans. Disposal in a landfill or by incineration may result in contamination of groundwater and soil or
in airborne exposure.
So, they should be recycled? … Yes
Most of us think of ‘recycling’ as the opposite of and preferred over disposal – it keeps an item out of
landfill and from going to waste and it allows for materials to be recovered and, after separation and
processing these can be used again to make new products. So, in most cases diversion from disposal,
or ‘simple’ recycling is the objective and this is true for many of the paper, glass, plastic, aluminum and
steel packaging and container items in our Blue Box programs and for the organic and food wastes in
the more recent Green Bin collections.
First, they should be reused!
For complex mechanical, electrical and electronic products, simple disposal diversion (recycling) is not
the best first option; reuse is! We all know that recycling (for material recovery) is at the ‘bottom of the
list’ and that reuse is preferred (remember the environmental mantra: “reduce – reuse – recycle” -
and in that order). This is true for machinery, cars, clothes, building products and a myriad of other
items and is why there are business equipment auctions, used car dealers and auto parts rebuilders.
And it is also why ebay, craigslist, kijiji, consignment shops, the ReStore, garage sales, Goodwill and
Freecycle have all become so popular.
The same is true for wireless communications devices - cell phone handsets. If your cell phone is left
in the back of the closet for too long it cannot be reused – the technology becomes obsolete, features
and functions advance quickly and the ‘added value’ deteriorates rapidly. But late-model cell phones
(generally less than 2 to 3 years old) have a huge reuse potential. There is a domestic and worldwide
demand for good quality, used cell phones because of their high cost (which we often don’t see
because of contract subsidies), especially in emerging markets where the true cost of the phone is well
beyond the reach of most users.
Which delivers valuable social advantages
Communications can be made available to those who otherwise might not be able to afford it:
o For domestic prepaid or ‘pay-as-you-go’ plans
o For offshore reuse in countries where the purchase of the cell phone is not subsidized, where
the cost of the new phone is prohibitive and where wireless handheld devices are becoming the
most effective bridge across the ‘digital divide’ (studies suggest that the GDP of a developing
market can improve by 3% to 4% with increased wireless communications)
Cell phones also play an essential role in safety. Many Canadians are unable to afford the cost of a cell
phone and unfortunately, many of these people also find themselves in need of emergency
communications. Any cell phone can dial 911 without a service contract and some recovered and
refurbished phones are made available to women’s shelters, trauma counseling centres, senior centres
and victim assistance programs where the phone can become a lifeline of hope and security.
And maximizes environmental benefits
Like many electronic gadgets, the many functions and features of a small cell phone come at an
environmental cost much bigger than its size. Impacts from mining materials, making the phone and
from packaging and transportation all add up. For instance, production and manufacturing can leave an
ecological or environmental footprint up to 1500 times bigger than the phone (of which about 90% is the
‘carbon footprint’). Reusing an existing cell phone can preempt the impacts of making a new one.
Reuse is also given priority over recycling because it can provide greater savings in resource
consumption. Reuse consumes fewer resources than sending the item to be converted back into raw
materials (simple recycling) which ‘wastes’ the resources embedded in the product and also requires
energy and resources to recover the materials. Reuse is a more effective use of resources. It
conserves non-renewable raw materials; contributes to reduction in greenhouse gases (reuse requires
about 50% of the energy that is consumed for recycling and material processing) and changes attitudes
towards products, service life and functional utility.
Significant ecological and environmental benefits can be realized from the recovery of pre-owned and
used cell phones and wireless handsets. These benefits can be maximized with a program that not only
encourages but also emphasizes a high degree of recovery for reuse:
Metric Equivalency 10,000,000
Energy Savings Number Of Households Powered By Electricity Per Year 37,000
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Passenger Cars Removed From The Road Per Year 27,000
Solid Waste Reduction Solid Waste Generated By Number Of Households Per Year 1500
Air Emissions Tonnes 1,750,000
(Determined Using the Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator, Mobile Phone Reuse & Recycling, March 2007 for USEPA)
So how can you help achieve these advantages and benefits?
When you get a new phone, don’t store the old one in a drawer or closet
Throughout the year, look for and support a cell phone recovery (recycling)
program in your community – a school, charity, community service group or
sports team that collects used cell phones to help raise needed funds. Donate
your late-model phone to help them raise more funds and to help achieve the
In April of each year bring your late-model used cell phones (including
smartphones, PDAs and Blackberries) to The Green Living Show
for recovery for reuse (And, if you only have an older model, we can take that too,
and we will ensure that it is properly recycled.)
Collection Bins Will Be Located At Show Entrances
When you drop off your phone, fill out a ballot to enter for a
chance to win some great prizes!
More Information: www.greenlivingonline.com/torontoshow/contests.html
To learn more about the impacts of cell phones and
the benefits of reuse and recycling:
our recycling partner, The Wireless Source, Canada at Booth 1000 or
Request a copy of the white paper ‘Recycle For Reuse’ at email@example.com
www.TheWirelessSource.ca www.CharitableRecycling.ca www.WirelessCellBack.com
From “Recycle Your Cell Phone … It’s An Easy Call” - a Plug-In To eCycling initiative of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)