Phone Recycling: Join us April 7th

by Sophia Aguilera, Program & Campaign Coordinator

Do you know what became of your last cell phone? I don’t know what happened to mine.

I asked my friends the same question. They all confessed to having a stockpile of old phones in junk drawers or tool sheds. One study says it’s average for an American to have four obsolete small electronics stashed away, and a couple of larger ones to boot.

One friend said she didn’t know what became of her phone: “It just went…away.”

Unfortunately, there really is no “away” when it comes to e-waste. The heavy metals like lead and mercury, when released from the phone, stick around in air, water or soil.  And when people or animals are exposed to those metals, they can get sick.

So it’s a bummer that 17,000 tons of old cell phones end up in landfills or incinerators each year, while only about 2,200 tons are recycled.  

Recycling has its own problems. Because cell phones may contain valuable copper, silver and lead, there is a reason to open them up—and risk exposure to heavy metals in order to collect the precious metals. A lot of e-waste is processed in developing countries, generating tens of millions of dollars but leaving behind highly contaminated environments and many health consequences. Read more at Basel Action Network; they teamed up with MIT to track a set of computer monitors through the waste stream to see where they ended up.

Only one of my friends could say right away where his old phone went: it was responsibly recycled. Visit to read about a program that certifies recyclers with a robust annual audit to ensure good environmental health practices as well as stringent standards for data security. You can find a recycler that meets the R2 standard here.

Live near Salem? Join OEC for free electronic recycling at the Capitol! We believe that recycling is so good for your health, we worked with responsible recycler AT&T to make cell phone recycling OEC’s contribution to the Oregon Public Health Association 2017 Capitol Visit Day!

Before you give up the old goods, be sure to remove your phone’s SIM card if it has one; erase your photos and address book; and restore the factory settings. You can find tips & instructions on how do this online.

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