Would you care to offer an opinion on what a person should do with his obsolete cell phone? Now, now... We don't want to hear about what you thought that guy who was talking on his cell phone during movie should do with it... The bad manners of a few people aside, cell phones do pose a significant waste disposal problem for society.
INFORM, an environmental research organization partly funded by EPA, has estimated that cell phones are typically used only for about 18 months before being replaced. Calling plans are often packaged with free or low-cost cell phones, which often makes keeping your current phone economically disadvantageous. Thus, many cell phones face their demise before they have become technologically obsolete, and waste stream gets not only cell phones that are truly unusable, but also those that are simply no longer best deal for owner.
As of 2001 (the last year figures were available), there were 129 million cell phone users in US, with 400 million users worldwide. In coming years, as population and market penetration for cell phones both increase, number of cell phones destined for waste stream will continue rising. With such a short average lifespan for each cell phone, it's easy to perceive magnitude of cell phone disposal problem. INFORM estimates that by 2005, nearly 130 million cell phones will be discarded every year in United States.
How does this affect environment? In addition to volume of landfill space that cell phones could take up, they also contain toxic chemicals such as: - arsenic (used in some semiconductors) - brominated compounds (used as flame retardants) - lead (used in solder that attaches components to circuit boards)
These and other cell-phone toxins enter environment when discarded cell phones are incinerated or when rainwater leaches materials out of landfilled phones. Many of toxic compounds in cell phones are found on EPA's list of "persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals." EPA warns that these substances can cause a range of adverse human health effects, including damage to nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, and cancer. Eek! Call a doctor!
So, what is a highly mobile, well connected cell-phone lover to do with a phone they no longer need?
Well, if you could go back in time, you could reconsider waste issue when evaluating your current cellular-service package. True, you can't do that; but here in present, you can include disposal issue when considering whether or not to renew your current plan or go with a one. If your phone still works fine, choosing a plan that allows you to keep it is best option from an environmental standpoint. If you do decide you want a new phone, you can still take waste issue into account to avoid finding yourself in same situation a year later. Don't accept a plan where economically intelligent thing to do again will be to throw away a perfectly functioning phone.