March 24, 2010
| by Lisa Montgomery
A few weeks ago my entire family upgraded to a suite of better phones. I finally got a phone with a keyboard for texting, as did my daughter and son. My husband sprang for an iPhone. Into the kitchen drawer the old phones went, joining the many others we’ve collected over the years.
I’m embarrassed that I haven’t even thought about recycling the stockpile. I know that programs exist—I just haven’t forced myself to make the special trip to the recycling center.
Apparently, though, I’m not alone. According to statistics from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), of the 4 billion wireless subscribers in the world, only 1 percent of them recycle their handsets. In the U.S. alone, 130 million phones are retired each year. That’s enough to create an estimated 65,000 tons of electronic garbage, according to the EPA.
A new company, eRecyclingCorps, hopes to make the recycling process significantly more convenient by allowing consumers to trade in their old phones directly at carrier retail stores—where 60 percent of all U.S. phones are sold.
The idea is simple: You bring your old phone with you when you go to buy a new one, and the carrier will buy back the retired handset. The credit will be applied to the purchase price of your new phone.
The plan may just work. According to ABI Research, 98 percent of consumers will recycle if they are giving incentives. Sprint is currently the only carrier using the eRecyclingCorps, but the company plans to roll out the program to other carriers this year and next.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.