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The Electronic Waste Crisis: Cell Phones – Facts and Figures

November 1, 2015

Electronic waste that used to be the latest cell phone. How do we stop this flood?Since its introduction into the market a few decades ago, the cell phone has become a necessary tool. Due to continuous technological advancements, new cell phones are constantly introduced to consumers, which overtime has led to a significant amount of “older” generation cell phones being thrown away.

As e-waste continues to pollute our landfills an important question arises… While our society continues to hunger for new technologies and electronics, what is happening to our old electronics?

Electronic Waste by the Numbers

Recent reports state that there are now more cellphones than people in the U.S., which emphasizes the importance of e-waste recycling. Not convinced? Take a look at some numbers below:

  • While around 70% of cellphones could be reused, only about 14-17% of cellphones are recycled each year.
  • The EPA estimates that more than 135 million cellphones were trashed in 2010 alone.
  • If Americans recycled just 100 million cellphones, enough energy would be saved to power over 370,000 homes in the U.S. for an entire year. For every 42 recycled cellphones, enough energy is saved to power the average household for an entire year.
  • Most cellphone users purchase a new cellphone every 18-20 months.
  • Smartphones contain toxic materials, including heavy metals like hexavalent chromium, arsenic, beryllium, and cadmium. These heavy metals have been shown to build up over time in the environment and the human body.
  • Cellphones, as well as other electronic devices, contain precious metals like silver and gold. The gold and silver in cellphones dumped by Americans each year would total around $60 million.
  • E-waste recycling is often ignored within the United States, and cellphones and other electronics often end up being burned or dumped in landfills. These inappropriate methods of disposal do not reclaim valuable materials and they do not manage toxic materials safely.
  • When recycling cellphones, every one million cellphones recycled would yield 750 pounds of silver, 50 pounds of palladium, 70 pounds of gold, and 35,000 pounds of copper.
  • Recycling a single Lithium-Ion battery from a cellphone can prevent the contamination of as much as 60,000 liters of water.
  • In 2007, of the 1.2 billion cellphones sold across the world, 60% of the phones were purchased to replace existing cellphones.
  • Many cellphones and other types of e-waste are not really waste, but they are whole electronic parts or equipment that can easily be marketed for reuse or recycled for the recovery of materials.
  • When e-waste, such as cellphones, is dumped instead of using proper e-waste recycling techniques, more than just humans can be negatively affected. The dangers of improper e-waste disposal not only have the potential to hurt the earth and humans, but it also has the potential to hurt animals such as birds, aquatic mammals, aquamarine life, and other animals.
  • When cellphones and other types of e-waste are dumped into landfills, the soil, air, and water is polluted. This results in the contamination of grasses, herbs, trees, vegetables, and other crops.
  • Approximately 5% of municipal solid waste is made up of obsolete electronic items, such as cellphones. In addition, while total municipal waste only increases by about 1.2% each year, e-waste increases by more than 8% yearly.
  • Since nearly all parts of cellphones can be recycled, cellphone recycling has the ability to reduce the exploitation of natural resources to make na bunch of cellphonesew cellphones. The refurbishing and recycling process also consumes less energy than manufacturing brand new cellphones from new materials.
  • With more than one billion cellphones being produced each year, global e-waste is expected to grow 8% every year, indefinitely.

Electronic waste has serious consequences on the human body, animals and our environment. You can take action by reducing your consumption of electronics. You should also recycle your old gadgets with programs such as Planet Green to help curb the electronic waste crisis.


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