Social Innovation: Recycling Your Mobile Phone

Jan 25, 2012 5:17 PM ET
Campaign: CSR Blogs

Posted by Sangeeta Haindl

If you get an unwanted handset for Christmas you may find mobile recycling is your answer: a social innovation solution. Over 130 million cell phones are replaced every year in the U.S., yet only ten per cent of those are recycled. As consumers upgrade, these wireless devices are tossed aside and the valuable piece of electronics and engineering justs wastes away. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates over a billion replaced mobile devices have accumulated in households across the U.S.; most probably end up in landfills rather than being reused or recycled.

All mobiles have an economic value, whether they're resold or broken down for minerals and plastic granulation. If recycling is to live up to its promise as one of the growth social innovation industries in green, e-waste recycling should become one of the most lucrative sectors. We're up to our necks in electronics, a lot of the raw materials are growing in value, and government regulators are devising policies to ensure they don't end up in dumps. In fact, China's threat to curb rare earth minerals in last year prompted Mitsubishi and Toshiba amongst other brands to investigate techniques to harvest uranium from old appliances.

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Sangeeta Haindl is a staff writer for Justmeans on Social Enterprise. When not writing for Justmeans, Sangeeta wears her other hat as a PR professional. Over the years, she has worked with high-profile organizations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from her industry. She now runs her own UK consultancy: Serendipity PR & Media.