Where do all the old cellphones go?

Not to the landfill, nor to the recycling center. They just malinger

Topics: Globalization, How the World Works, Wireless,

Useful information from Nokia:

In fact, up to 80 percent of any Nokia device is recyclable and precious materials within it can be reused to help make new products such as kitchen kettles, park benches, dental fillings or even saxophones and other metal musical instruments.

I know I want my next set of dental fillings to be made from used cellphones. I think that would be pretty neat.

But the sad truth is, almost no one recycles their phone. According to a Nokia survey “based on interviews with 6,500 people in 13 countries” only 3 percent of the world’s mobile phone owners recycle their communicators.

This doesn’t mean, however, that they’re ending up in landfills.

Very few old devices, 4 percent, are being thrown into landfill. Instead the majority, 44 percent, are simply being kept at homes never used. Others are giving their mobiles another life in different ways, one quarter are passing on their old phones to friends or family, and 16 percent of people are selling their used devices particularly in emerging markets.

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People! Clear out your drawers!

“If each of the three billion people globally owning mobiles brought back just one unused device we could save 240,000 tonnes of raw materials and reduce greenhouse gases to the same effect as taking 4 million cars off the road,” said Markus Terho, Nokia’s Director of Environmental Affairs. “By working together, small individual actions could add up to make a big difference.”

Future saxophones will thank you.

Andrew Leonard
Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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