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I Stink At Recycling Old Cell Phones. Do You?

New data compiled by Nokia suggests that merely 3% of old cell phones are recycled. The bulk end up in a drawer somewhere. That got me thinking, and sent me searching around my house for all my old cell phones. I am ashamed to admit that I found 10. Eek. It's time we all got with the program.
New data compiled by Nokia suggests that merely 3% of old cell phones are recycled. The bulk end up in a drawer somewhere. That got me thinking, and sent me searching around my house for all my old cell phones. I am ashamed to admit that I found 10. Eek. It's time we all got with the program.Nokia has been pushing green initiatives for the better part of a year. It has announced low-power chargers, phones that remind you to unplug them once they are done being charged, and even created a cell phone entirely of recycled materials. Its latest study is meant to open our eyes to the power of recycling cell phones.

Nokia polled people in Finland, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, the United States, Nigeria, India, China, Indonesia, and Brazil. The bad news is that only 3% recycle phones. The bulk of people, 44%, toss old cell phones into drawers, the closet, the basement, (insert a dark place in your house here) and forget about them. Thankfully, only 4% are thrown into the garbage.

The biggest reason people don't recycle? More than half of people surveyed didn't know that old phones could be recycled. Ouch. That means the message isn't getting out there.

According to Nokia, materials mined from recycled cell phones have a lot of value, and can be used to help make new products such as kitchen kettles, park benches, dental fillings, or even saxophones and other metal musical instruments. I don't know if anyone necessarily wants to know that the metal in their teeth used to belong in someone's cell phone. Nor can I imagine any guitar player I know thinking it would be great if his/her new PAFs were covered in anything but pure nickel that came straight from the ground. But raw materials are raw materials, and ones that already are mined may as well be recycled if they're going to do nothing more than line the bottom of your junk drawer.

That last bit of info that Nokia asks us to ponder comes from a quote from Markus Terho, director of environmental affairs and markets at Nokia. He said, "If each of the three billion people globally owning mobiles brought back just one unused device, we could save 240,000 tonnes of raw materials and reduce greenhouse gases to the same effect as taking 4 million cars off the road. By working together, small individual actions could add up to make a big difference."

In an attempt to turn over a greener leaf, I took all 10 of my old phones to the local Sprint store, picked up some of their pre-paid mailing labels, and sent them on their merry way. Maybe you should check around your house, too.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing