Environment Recycling & Waste The Benefits of Cell Phone Recycling Why You Need to Recycle Your Cell Phones By Larry West Larry West Writer University of Washington Larry West is an award-winning environmental journalist and writer. He won the Edward J. Meeman Award for Environmental Reporting. Learn about our editorial process Updated November 3, 2019 Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email Environment Plastics Zero Waste Recycling or reusing cell phones helps the environment by saving energy, conserving natural resources, and keeping reusable materials out of landfills. Cell Phone Recycling Helps the Environment Cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) contain a variety of precious metals, copper, and plastics. Recycling or reusing cell phones and PDAs not only conserves these valuable materials, but it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions that occur during manufacturing and while extracting and processing virgin materials. 4 Good Reasons to Recycle Cell Phones Only about 10% of the cell phones used in the United States are recycled. We need to do better. Here's why: Recycling just one cell phone saves enough energy to power a laptop for 44 hours.If we recycled all of the 130 million cell phones that are tossed aside annually in the United States, we could save enough energy to power more than 24,000 homes for a year.For every one million cell phones recycled, we can recover 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 33 pounds of palladium, and 35,274 pounds of copper; cell phones also contain tin, zinc, and platinum that can be reused.Cell phones and other electronic devices also contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and brominated flame retardants. If tossed in landfills, these materials can contaminate air, soil, and groundwater. Recycle or Donate Your Cell Phone Most Americans get a new cell phone every 18 to 24 months. The next time you get a new phone, don't discard your old one or toss it into a drawer where it will gather dust. Recycle your old cell phone or, if it is still in good working order, consider donating it to a program that provides essential technology to low-income individuals. Some recycling programs also work with schools or community organizations to collect cell phones as fundraising ventures. Apple will take back your old iPhone and recycle or reuse it through its Renew program. In 2015, Apple recycled 90 million pounds of electronic waste. The materials thus recovered include 23 million pounds of steel, 13 million pounds of plastic, and almost 12 million pounds of glass. Some of the recovered materials have very high value too: 2.9 million pounds of copper, 6,612 pounds of silver, and 2,204 pounds of gold! The markets for refurbished cell phones extend far beyond U.S. borders as well, providing modern communication technology to people in developing nations who would otherwise find it unaffordable. How Are Materials From Recycled Cell Phones Used? Almost all of the materials used to manufacture cell phones—metals, plastics, and rechargeable batteries—can be recovered and used to make new products. Metals recovered from recycled cell phones are versatile—they're used in jewelry making, electronics, and automotive manufacturing. Recovered plastics are recycled into plastic components for new electronic devices and other plastic products such as garden furniture, plastic packaging, and auto parts. When rechargeable cell phone batteries can no longer be reused, they can be recycled to make other rechargeable battery products.