The proliferation of iPhones, iPads, smartphones and other personal communication devices in the last few years has made communications easier and more convenient. It also has created millions of tons of toxic electronic trash.
Cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury are among the toxic and potentially cancer-causing substances used to construct smartphones and other personal electronics, according to a 2011 article in The Washington Post. When phones and other devices are discarded, these substances leach into the ground and water, poisoning plant, animal—and sometimes human—life.
In the U.S. alone, Americans disposed of 126 million mobile phones in 2007, reports The Post, and in the last five years, “the developing world has tripled its disposal of electronic junk.” While almost all parts of smartphones are recyclable, Martin Nielsen, chief executive of Waste Systems, says that the U.S. recycling rate for personal electronic devices is low—only 18 percent. In a report released by Electronics Takeback Coalition, the recycling rate for cell phones alone is even lower—a mere 10 percent.
With all the damage that improperly discarded electronic devices can cause, it’s important for everyone to know how to correctly dispose of them. Stores such as Best Buy, Radio Shack and Apple will recycle your unwanted electronics, regardless of where the device was purchased. You can also learn more about electronic recycling programs for individuals and businesses at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website, www.epa.gov/oaintrnt/practices/electronics.htm.