Cell phones in your junk drawer?

Is there a cell phone graveyard lurking in your home? Maybe it’s a box or a drawer where you put old devices just in case you need them. They were once so valuable to you, but now…

In the United States, nearly 1.4 billion cell phones are sold every year, with average Americans swapping theirs out every two years. Smartphones today not only contain all of our personal data, but they also serve as our computer, camera, wallet, video screen, and music player. They are so advanced and valuable to us that it is no wonder many people find them intimidating to repair and painful to discard.

In the eight-minute video “Why Your Old Phones Collect in a Junk Drawer of Sadness, conservationist and visiting University of California professor Dr. M. Sanjayan notes, “Technology today is innovating so fast and built in such a way that it actually promotes disposability. But as people are becoming more aware, companies are becoming more sensitive to this issue.”

Companies such as iFixit are providing video tutorials and other resources on how consumers can fix devices themselves. Oftentimes replacing a battery or cracked screen is all that is needed. Manufacturers such as Fairphone are experimenting with designing modular phones that can be easily taken apart and repaired or updated, while other businesses are researching new types of batteries.

So what should you do with the items in your cell phone junk drawer of sadness? First, make sure you completely remove your personal data from all devices. If your phone works and is less than five years old, it can likely be traded in for a new phone or sold on websites such as Gazelle or through local online marketplaces.

Never place a cell phone into the trash. Please recycle older or broken cell phones, as they contain many hazardous and useful chemicals that can be used to make new phones. Cell phones are accepted with other electronics for recycling. For more information about electronics recycling, check with your local solid waste management authority.

To read more about Dr. M. Sanjayan and the good work he is doing with the University of California and Vox Media, read Hey Kermit, being green is easy!  Together, they have partnered to create a series of nine short videos describing several basic sustainability problems and offering simple, guilt-free ways to make small changes that help.

Picture credit: Screen shot from the video, “Why Your Old Phones Collect in a Junk Drawer of Sadness

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