E-waste is a growing headache for consumers struggling to be more green. Could recycling our old devices, like cell phones and tablets, help to reduce the problem?
How to recycle your cell phone for charity
Rather than chucking your phone in the trash when it breaks, you can send it to the B-corp Big Sky Recycling, which will repair and recycle it.
The profits from your recycled phone are then used to support Operation Shoebox, which supplies U.S. soldiers with phone cards and care packages.
Other causes that Big Sky Recycling supports include One Tree Planted, which plants a tree for every phone donated, and No Kid Hungry, which fights to reduce childhood hunger by serving school breakfasts and meals through the holidays.
Why recycling your cell phone is important
E-waste is an increasingly pressing issue. As the ownership of cell phones and tablets increases, the amount of old electronics sent to landfills is skyrocketing.
By 2030, the amount of e-waste sent to landfills could reach more than 82 million tons. That’s more than double the amount collected in 2010.
Because the materials that make up our electronic devices are so difficult to separate at home, very few of us recycle them. Only 20% of e-waste is currently recycled. The other 80% goes to landfills.
All that e-waste would fetch a high price. Piles of precious metals are going in the trash too, even as these “blood minerals” are mined in dangerous working conditions — often including human rights abuses and child labor.
“In 2022 alone, small EEE items such as cell phones, electric toothbrushes, toasters and cameras produced worldwide will weight an estimated total of [27 million tons] — four times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza,” Magdalena Charytanowicz, a WEEE Forum representative, said in a statement.
“These devices offer many important resources that can be used in the production of new electronic devices or other equipment, such as wind turbines, electric car batteries or solar panels — all crucial for the green, digital transition to low-carbon societies.”
How recycling your cell phone helps to reduce e-waste
By recycling your cell phone or your tablet, you can ensure that your e-waste can find a new use or is disposed of properly.
A growing movement is calling for consumers’ right to repair in protest against “planned obsolescence,” in which tech companies deliberately design their devices to break after a period of time.
Cell phones that break every two years are a pain for tech buyers, but their environmental impact is far worse. Planned obsolescence ensures that more e-waste than is necessary keeps heading to the trash.
Last year, the EU proposed laws to protect consumers against planned obsolescence.
But until tougher regulations become the norm, groups like Big Sky Recycling can remove some of the devices headed to landfills, either to fix them completely or to glean raw materials for other repairs.
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