There is no question that smart phones & smart phone like devices are becoming increasingly popular. According to Comscore, as of February 2011, there were 234 million Americans ages 13 and older using a mobile device, of which 69.5 million used smart phones.
We constantly want the latest and greatest when it comes to our phones, but what happens to all those old ones? In California, a state well known for its strong environmental protection laws, it is illegal for your old phone to end up in a landfill — and for good reason. Some mobile devices have cadmium in their batteries, a carcinogenic metal which can cause cancer, or lithium, a highly flammable substance. Toxic substances aside, with service provider contracts that enable you to upgrade to a new phone every two years, that adds up to a lot of plastic, metal, and glass waste each year.
Thankfully, mobile device companies are becoming increasingly responsive to consumers eco-awareness and are working towards being more green. For example, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, said the iPhone 4 was one of their greenest phones to date due to the materials used — stainless steel and glass, both highly recyclable.
Going a step further, Sprint has announced its first eco-friendly smartphone, Replenish. Manufactured by Samsung and running on the Android operating system, Replenish comes packed with everything you would expect of a modern smart phone — touch screen, Blue tooth, WiFi, etc. But the real draw of the phone is how green it is. Replenish is made from 82% recycled materials, with 34.6% of that being post-customer recycled plastic. It also comes in packaging that is recyclable and printed with soy ink rather than petroleum based ink.
On the consumer side, there are more environmentally friendly options other than opening the garage door and tossing your old phone in the garbage can. Some companies include envelopes inside the packaging of new phones so that the old one can be returned and recycled. There is also a huge secondary market for used phones. Ebay and other companies are launching programs to buy back old phones, which are then sold to someone else to use. And if neither of those options will work for you, locate a nearby recycling facility where you can safely dispose of your old phone. The reusable parts, like steel, glass, and plastic, will be harvested for use in future products.
As demand for more powerful smart phones grow, our electronic waste will increase. But by companies and consumers working together, we can make sure our mobile lives are both convenient and green.
Image Credit: Sprint
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