Old cell phones make new businesses

January 14, 2008

The hundreds of millions of cellular phones cast aside each year worldwide have spawned a booming recycling industry.

In the U.S., the average phone is replaced after just 12 months, The New York Times reported Sunday, while in China, about 200 million phones per year are discarded.

Some businesses have capitalized on the waste bonanza by breaking down such electronic waste into its valuable basic components.

Umicore, a Belgian company, has developed a smelting process that extracts 17 metals -- including copper and gold -- from the phones and other waste, the Times reported. By some estimates, each phone contains $1 worth of precious materials.

Other phones are gathered by recycling companies such as ReCellular and sent for refurbishment to the developing world, where three-quarters of all telephones are mobile but new phones are too expensive for the average person, the newspaper said.

But while these options are better than simply throwing a phone -- and its many toxic components - into a landfill, they still create their own environmental problems. Smelting creates harmful emissions, while even refurbished phones are often thrown away in their destination countries, creating environmental hazards there.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International

Explore further: New digital antenna could revolutionize the future of mobile phones

Related Stories

Solid batteries improve safety

August 16, 2016

Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a lithium-ion battery made entirely of solid material: it contains neither liquids nor gels. The battery cannot ignite, even at very high temperatures, giving it a safety advantage ...

DR Congo's second city poisoned by years of mining

August 22, 2016

"In this stream, the fish vanished long ago, killed by acids and waste from the mines," says Lubumbashi resident Heritier Maloba, staring into the murky waters of his childhood fishing hole.

Recommended for you

Inferring urban travel patterns from cellphone data

August 29, 2016

In making decisions about infrastructure development and resource allocation, city planners rely on models of how people move through their cities, on foot, in cars, and on public transportation. Those models are largely ...

How machine learning can help with voice disorders

August 29, 2016

There's no human instinct more basic than speech, and yet, for many people, talking can be taxing. 1 in 14 working-age Americans suffer from voice disorders that are often associated with abnormal vocal behaviors - some of ...

Apple issues update after cyber weapon captured

August 26, 2016

Apple iPhone owners on Friday were urged to install a quickly released security update after a sophisticated attack on an Emirati dissident exposed vulnerabilities targeted by cyber arms dealers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.