01 April 2014

The issue of cell phone recycling

David Wang writes:*

The mobile phone industry is getting thriving and profitable these days, but the old phone recycling issue has become a widespread concern. According to a research conducted by Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) in 2013, over 70% of adult Canadians own a cell phone, and among the people who does not currently own a cell phone, is planning to have one in the future. On average, Canadians have owned 3 cell phones prior to their current one. About 80% Canadians either store their cell phone or put on other use after they purchase a new one.

The issue of not recycling used or unwanted cell phone is twofold, on one hand, if the used cell phones are not being disposed properly, then they will become a long lasting pollution to the environment since one third of cell phone is made by metals. On the other hand, in fact, over 90% of the materials used in mobiles can be reused or recovered, and some of the heavy metals that can be recycled are very valuable. So it is both a harm to the environment and a waste for not recycling the old mobiles.

Two potential solutions can be considered to encourage people recycle their used cell phone. First, cell phone company like Apple or Samsung could cooperate with cell phone recycling company like ecoATM or Mobile Muster to reinforce the recycling program, make it easier for people to participate in the program. Second, government could announce certain policy that requires cell phone company to put recycling related information on their advertisement for their new issued products.

Bottom Line: Not recycle old cell phone is harmful to our environment and also a waste. It is important to recycle your used cell phone.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.


  1. Cell phone pollution becomes more and more severe now, but it's always neglected part in the all the pollutant sources. The majority of people have more than one phones,however, only few of them prefer to recycle phones rather than store phones. I think the reason is : they don't have much incentives to recycle phones,in brief, they don't get paid to do so. So I think it's will be better to give people some cash back based on the phone quality. Also cell phone makers can develop some new degradable materials to replace the heavy metals.

  2. What drives the frequent phone replacement? We need to think about how to reduce phone demand as well as how to manage phones that are no longer in use.
    Appropriate recycling efforts will require economic incentives as well as regulations to ensure that phones are dismantled safely.


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