More Cell Phones Recycled, But Numbers Are Still Low

Wireless companies are helping consumers become greener by promoting the recycling of old phones, market researcher iSuppli said.
We recycle our soda cans and our newspapers, so why don't we recycle our cell phones?

U.S. consumers who bought new mobile phones recycled the old ones in the fourth quarter of 2007 at double the rate of the third quarter, a market research firm said Tuesday. But the overall number of recyclers remained low at less than one in 10.

"iSuppli's fourth-quarter survey indicated that while U.S. consumers increasingly are recycling their old handsets, there's still plenty of room for improvement," Greg Sheppard, chief development officer for iSuppli, said in a statement.

The market researcher found that only 9.4% of consumers who bought new phones recycled the old ones, iSuppli said. But the doubling in the recycling rate over the third quarter showed that Americans are increasingly becoming aware of environmental issues related to the disposal of electronic waste.

Wireless companies are helping consumers become greener by promoting the recycling of old phones, the researcher said. Verizon Wireless, for example, collects old phones at its stores and then refurbishes them to sell, or recycles materials in the phones.

ISuppli's survey of consumers also showed that 36.8% stored their old handsets, believing they have some residual value. "However, all too often, those handsets end up in the trash when spring cleaning comes," Sheppard said.

The next most common fate for old phones was to be given away to family or friends, followed by donating them to charities and returning them to the retailers where they were originally bought. Unfortunately, a "disturbingly high number" of U.S. consumers, 10.2%, tossed the old phones in the trash, or said they were stolen or lost.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that American throw away 125 million phones a year, creating 65,000 tons of waste, some of it toxic, iSuppli said.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing