"You can't just throw old phones in the bin because of the environmental impact"
- Mark Harrison of Isis
In this throw-away age of disposable technology, people are upgrading and replacing their phones with greater regularity. In the UK, around 4 million replacement phones are sold each year. Most are discarded, an estimated 20 million potentially toxic redundant mobile telephones in the UK alone. Whilst some companies will accept the old handset in part exchange, many users simply toss their old equipment in the bin.
Unfortunately, the batteries can leak cadmium, a dangerous toxic substance - into the soil. Whilst responsible disposal can avoid this scenario, there are alternatives which benefit others. Even with the newer, less harmful battery technologies, many components can be reused or recycled. In many cases, the phones being refurbished and shipped to poorer areas of the world, for use by charitable organisations.
The UK charity Oxfam (www.oxfam.org) has launched an appeal for old mobiles to raise money for charitable causes. Each handset is worth between £2 and £20 to the charity. A Nokia 5110, for instance, pays for 24 school desks for children in Kenya. In addition, many mobiles are exported to African countries with poor landline infrastructure, where handsets are still notoriously expensive.
Oxfam's campaign address is:
Oxfam Bring Bring Scheme
FREEPOST LON162 81
! Other organisations which recycle technology include EMC in the UK at http://www.emc-recycle.com/
and Radio Shack
in the US, in conjuction with http://www.wirelessfoundation.org/12give/
. A comprehensive list is also available at http://www.sabahrecycle.net/konsumer/link.cfm