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Recycling Wireless Telephones

In the past decade, cell phones have become a leading source of communication in our society. Many of us rely on them to communicate on a daily basis and we replace them with newer and better models frequently. It is important that we have plans for doing something with these products when they are replaced. These plans should include reuse and recycling!

The massive number of cell phones and various mobile devices now in circulation are presenting a growing concern to the environment. "As of 2003, there are more than 500 million mobile phones waiting to be recycled in the US; either in drawers, or already in the waste stream. Another 100 million or so will be added this year and even more next year."

New York State residents now have a lot more opportunities to recycle their cell phones. Under the New York State Wireless Recycling Act, effective January 1, 2007, all wireless telephone service providers that offer phones for sale will accept your cell phones for reuse or recycling. Chapter 730 of the Laws of 2006 requires these businesses to accept up to 10 cell phones from any person or provide shipping for those phones.

Before the legislation was enacted some service providers had established cell phone reuse/recycling and donation programs. We suggest that you search the internet to find a cell phone donation program.

Material & Estimated Percentage Used in Manufacturing Cell Phones

The following materials are typically found in cell phones:

  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Polycarbonate (PC) - 20%
  • Copper (CU) - 19%
  • Silica, Soda, Lime (Glass) - 11%
  • Aluminum (Al) - 9%
  • Iron (Fe) - 8%
  • Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA) - 6%
  • Silicon Dioxide (SiO2) - 5%
  • Epoxy - 5%
  • Polycarbonate (PC) - 4%
  • Silicon (Si) - 4%
  • Polyoxymethelyne (POM) - 2%
  • Polystyrene (PS) - 2%
  • Tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBA) - 2%
  • Nickel (Ni) - 1%
  • Tin (Sn) - 1%
  • Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) - 1%
  • Gold, palladium, and silver are represented in other metals as less than one percent

Wireless phones generally contain 40% metals, 40% plastics, and 20% ceramics.

Results of Improper Trash Disposal

Cell phones contain many hazardous materials including mercury and lead, that if improperly disposed can harm the environment, and potentially become detrimental to humans and wildlife.

Electronic devices thrown into the trash end up buried in landfills or burned at waste-to-energy facilities. There are better options such as reusing and recycling.

Cell Phone Reuse & Recycle

Reuse! Donating for Redistribution

You can donate your phone for refurbishment and redistribution for a potentially valuable second life before disposal. Many organizations collect cell phones as donations for refurbishment and redistribution. This list of donation programs has been compiled as a public service. Inclusion in the list does not constitute an endorsement or approval by this Department and suggest that you can search on the internet for additional donation programs.

American Cellular Donation Organization - Assists churches, schools and other nonprofit organizations to raise funds through used cell phone donation drives. All nonworking phones are recycled according to USEPA guidelines so they stay out of landfills. Working phones are refurbished and channeled to those who need wireless communication but would otherwise not be able to have it. All proceeds from working phones are returned to the donating organization.
(www.cellulardonation.org/)

AT&T Wireless - includes multiple recycling and donation programs.
(www.att.com/gen/general?pid=20369)

Cell Phones for Soldiers - A program that helps our troops call home.
(http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/)

Charitable Recycling Program - making it easy to dispose of used cell phones. (www.charitablerecycling.com/CR/home.asp)

DONATE A PHONE CALL TO PROTECT - The Wireless Foundation campaign collects wireless phones to benefits victims of domestic violence. In the hands of a victims, these phones are a lifeline enabling them to call for assistance when faced with an emergency situation.
(www.wirelessfoundation.org)

Recellular Inc.- a cell phone donation site.
(www.recellular.com)

Recycle for Breast Cancer - Send in your obsolete cell phone with their postpaid label and 10 percent of the recycling proceeds will be donated to the San Francisco Bay Area Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. (www.recycleforbreastcancer.com)

Sprint Project Connect - cellphone recycling program that benefits K-12 education.
(www.sprint.com/recycle)

Verizon Wireless HopeLine - phone recycling program.
(https://aboutus.vzw.com/communityservice/hopeline.html)

Wireless Foundation - initiates and oversees philanthropic programs that utilize wireless technology to help American communities.
(www.wirelessfoundation.org/index.cfm)

Recycling Cell Phones

Contact your local recycling coordinator for recycling programs or check out Earth 911 (www.newyork.earth911.org/) for recycling or redistributing options in your local area by zip code.


More about Recycling Wireless Telephones:

  • Wireless Service Providers - This letter was distributed to wireless telephone service suppliers to provide information regarding the Wireless Telephone Recycling Act, which became effective January 1, 2007. This law, which established Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), Article 27, Title 23 requires in part that all wireless telephone service suppliers that sell wireless telephones must provide for the reuse, recycling, or proper disposal of wireless phones.
  • Chapter 730, Laws of 2006 - Chapter 730 Laws of 2006, Wireless Telephone Recycling