There are billions of cell phone subscribers in the world. The United States alone has more than 440 million cell phone subscribers and ranks third in the world. Manufacturing cell phones uses irreplaceable elements and about 100-120 million phones are discarded every year, making them the fastest growing form of electronic trash. Cell phones have transitioned from a luxury to a necessity in our modern world, but the environment is paying the price. There are steps, though, that you can take to help cut waste and make your phone more sustainable.
On average, smartphones are replaced about every 2.75 years. Whether they’re replaced due to quality issues or the desire for an upgrade, that’s a lot of cell phones transitioning to the trash, resale, or donation!
When it’s time for you to replace your phone, purchase a refurbished phone. This keeps old phones out of landfills and decreases the need to manufacture as many new cell phones. Cell phones contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, and more. If a thrown-away cell phone is burnt, toxic metals are released into the environment. If they aren’t burnt, they are buried in the solid and slowly contaminate the dirt and water sources.
When you’re purchasing a second-hand phone, you can follow our Guide to Buying Used Mobile Devices to ensure you get a quality sustainable phone at a fair price. You should also purchase a Phonecheck Certified used phone to avoid costly mistakes.
Did you know recycling your dead cell phone saves energy? One recycled cell phone saves enough energy to charge a laptop for about 44 hours. Up to 80% of materials used in cell phones can be recycled and reused. There are many recycling facilities that will accept old cell phones. There are even EcoATM kiosks in malls that collect old phones and give you money for them. You may also be able to take them to your carrier.
Luckily people are slowly hanging on to their cell phones longer. In the U.S. and Europe, especially, the life cycle of a smartphone has been steadily increasing, according to data from market research firm Kantar Worldpanel. Again, the longer you hold on to your cell phone, the more phones stay out of landfills and the fewer new cell phones need to be manufactured.
Some chargers use more electricity than others. Do your research and find the lower-use charger that will meet the needs of your cell phone. You’ll generally want to look for chargers that take 30mW of energy or less. Not only will you save money on your electricity bill and reduce your emissions, but you’ll have a more sustainable phone.
If you feel strongly that you need to get a different phone, but your current phone still works well, consider donating. There are a lot of organizations that collect used cell phones and give them to those who need them. Other organizations refurbish the phone and sell them to earn money for the charity. Here’s a list of just a few organizations that accept donated cell phones.
One of the most important things you can do to improve the environment is to keep sustainability top of mind. Rather than just tossing an old cell phone, think about what you can do to make a positive impact on our world.