Monday, February 18, 2008

Green Solution For Old Cell Phones

Are you a reluctant cell phone collector? Most people have a few models in the basement or desk drawer. They all have one thing in common. They don't work anymore.

The thing about cell phones is that they go obsolete long before they stop functioning. There's the occasional dropped or crushed mobile. But most of these phones would work just fine if you charged them up and got them a cellular service plan. Ah, there's the rub. The plans are what costs. The phones are cheap. Even new models are often offered free or at a highly subsidized low prices. Why would you keep paying monthly fees for the old clunker when you can have the latest model for the same monthly cost?

So there they sit. Piling up one, two, or three per household. Collectively there are hundreds of millions of old cell phones going unused. Eventually, people clean house. What happens then is that millions of phones go from the drawer to the curb, and then on to the city landfill.

Isn't that where junk is supposed to go? Cell phones aren't like most junk. Electronic trash is both wasteful and hazardous. What you are putting into the landfill for the next hundred or thousand years is a package of chemicals that can only be harmful to the environment in the long run. They contain chemicals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and zinc. These materials are what makes the electronics work. There isn't a lot in each phone. But when you inject thousands or tens of thousands of phones into a landfill and they start to break down over time, you've got the potential for serious trouble some day.

So what do you do? Some communities have an electronics recycling day once or twice a year. They will take your cell phones and other unwanted electronic items and properly recycle them to recover useful chemicals. That includes the lead, cadmium, arsenic and zinc. But it also includes plastic, glass and gold.

Gold? Yes. gold plating is used on circuit boards and within semiconductors because gold is an excellent conductor of electricity and doesn't corrode the way copper and aluminum do. There's a little gold mine in each cell phone.

How would you like to mine some cellular gold of your own? No need to take a pick to your phone. All you have to do is send it in for recycling. This company sends you a prepaid mailer for your cell phone. You drop it in the mail and they take of of recycling or reuse so that nothing goes to waste. If your phone is a newer model and suitable for refurbishment and reuse in other countries or as an emergency phone, you'll even get paid.

How much can you make? That depends on how new and in-demand your old phone is. Even though you may have gotten the phone for free, it probably has value to someone else. Check to see what your old cell phone is worth.

So instead of letting old phones go to waste, why not get a check instead? Even if your old mobile is only suitable for recycling you'll at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you've protected the environment from hazardous waste and made the materials available for other uses.

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