Monday, July 14, 2008

Drowning in a Sea of Cell Phones

The latest estimates I've seen put mobile subscribers at about 3 billion around the word, with 1 billion new cell phones sold each year. With a 2 to 3 year churn factor, that means that roughly a 1,000,000,000 mobile phones go obsolete each year. That's a billion with a "b". Where do they all go?

Right in a drawer at home, that's where. Actually a new survey says that only 44% actually wind up just sitting around the house like a boomerang college graduate. (Ouch, I was one of those). Another 25% get passed on to family and friends. A full 16% get sold. But only 3% are recycled.

Frankly, I can't see why you'd recycle a device that could be sold. But only 16% of those billion sales opportunities are turned into cash. That's hundreds and hundreds of millions of phones and dollars wasting away.

Well, perhaps there's not enough money to make it worth bundling up the old cell and driving it to the post office. I took a look through the listings of a company that re-purposes used cell phones for application in third world countries and as emergency phones in the U.S. They give you a mailer and send you a check for each cell they receive in good working order.

How much can you get? Most models seem to be in the $4 to $20 range, although there are a lot of newer models and smartphones that garner $25, $50 and more. Got an old iPhone you want to unload? You might get $150 for it.

What about phones that have collected a layer of dust because you sat them aside - a few years ago. Blow it off. Then send that junker in for recycling using a free mailing label. It will be out of your way and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing it isn't adding to the mounting tonnage of old electronics that will have to be dealt with someday.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to drop it in the weekly waste along with all the old pizza that's gone dried and wrinkly. Nature will reclaim pizza. The nasty arsenic, cadmium, plastics and other environmental degraders will live on to poison future generations. Some cities have electronic recycling days where you can drop off your circuit board laden trash for proper handling. If not, get that free mailing label and send it to a recycler specializing in cellular phones. They'll reclaim any valuable chemicals and metals and make sure whatever is left gets dealt with appropriately.

So now that you've unloaded your prized vintage mobile collection for cash and recycling, there's only one thing left to do. Go shopping for the latest and greatest mobile wireless devices.

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