Federally Mandate Proper Disposal of Cell Phones

Target: Federal Communications Commission, Environmental Protection Agency

Goal: Convince the federal government to mandate proper recycling of used cell phones

Every year, Americans dispose of close to 130 million cell phones, and out of those phones, only 8% are discarded properly via recycling. The reason recycling is important goes far beyond simply being able to convert waste into reusable material. Specifically recycling cell phones can prevent dangerous chemicals from leaching into our groundwater and dangerous contaminants from polluting the air. Every time a cell phone is improperly discarded and ends up in either a landfill or an incinerator, we put ourselves at risk for contamination. Therefore, the only way to ensure these toxics aren’t escaping into the environment is to ask the government to enforce the proper disposal of all cellular devices.

When tested in a study where 36 cell phones from ten different manufacturers were disassembled, it was discovered that all of them contained toxic chemicals linked to “birth defects, impaired learning and other serious health problems.” Over a thousand samples were analyzed for 35 chemical compounds and elements, including “lead, bromine, chlorine, mercury and cadmium.” And while newer phones did prove to be slightly less hazardous than older ones, they were still doing detriment to the environment and therefore it is not an issue likely to die out anytime soon. As research director Jeff Gearhart has stated, “We need better federal regulation of these chemicals, and we need to create incentives for the design of greener consumer electronics.”

Nearly half the states in the U.S. have already implemented a ban on disposing of electronics in landfills and incinerators, but the rest of the country is not on board. The solution is readily available right now and simply needs to be utilized, but because many people aren’t aware of the environmental consequences of improperly discarding cell phones, it is not yet a priority. The government needs to step in and either federally mandate or incentivize proper cell phone disposal immediately so that we can protect our health and longevity in the long run.


Dear Federal Communications Commission and Environmental Protection Agency,

The statistics startle us. With over a hundred million cell phones being discarded annually, and less of ten percent of those reaching proper recycling centers, one can only imagine how many reusable materials are going to waste. If that isn’t enough of an incentive to change, then consider an irreversible consequence that could have lasting impacts on our health: the chemicals.

Cell phones are notoriously known to contain some very harmful chemical compounds which don’t disappear once the device does. Research has proven that every time a cell phone is improperly disposed of, either by means of a landfill or an incinerator, dangerous chemicals can be leached into the groundwater or contaminants free to pollute the air. This could eventually be prevented with widespread awareness of the long-term consequences of such actions, but until then, a policy needs to be implemented to protect our health and future generations. Instead of leaving it up to each state to decide when they are going to start caring about how we dispose of cell phones, federal law must be introduced to mandate proper recycling methods before insurmountable hazards await us.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: E r i k m via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    let them recycle their cell phones!

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