Following the launch of the iPhone 5 in late September, Earthworks, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting communities and the environment formerly known as Mineral Policy Center, followed up with the launch of its “Recycle My Cell Phone” website, which helps mobile consumers and the environment by keeping cellphones out of landfills and helps to conserve precious minerals.
Throwing an old cellphone into the trash, the most likely end to any cellphone, over time leads to the leaching of hazardous chemicals like lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and other rare earth elements into the soil and groundwater. In some areas that incinerate their trash, these toxins could quickly find their way into our atmosphere.
Keeping cellphones out of landfills is not the only environmental impact that the group hopes to achieve. Recycling cells, mobile devices, and laptops reduces the demand on mineral mining by keeping these materials in circulation.
According to Earthworks, recycling 50 million cellphones could prevent the creation of 2 million tons of mining waste. The group projected that iPhone 5 sales alone will reach 50 million by the end of 2012. Those purchasing the new iPhone probably have an old device that might just be thrown away.
“We hope the public will embrace this easy option for recycling with the guarantee that their devices are being handled responsibly,”
—Hilary Lewis, manager, Recycle My Cell Phone
“Recycling helps protect communities and the environment in the United States and around the world by keeping hazardous chemicals out of landfills and reducing the demand for conflict mineral mining,” said Recycle My Cell Phone Manager Hilary Lewis in a statement on the Earthworks website.
Additionally, another impact of phone recycling includes the potential reduction in demand for conflict materials. An area of cellphone consumerism that is often overlooked, conflict materials include minerals like gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten, which are mined in areas of the world with high civil conflict.
Specifically, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently suffering from heavy internal strife, and the sale of minerals mined from that country for electronics and cellphones is directly funding human rights abuses and civil violence there.
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