An astonishing number of people own and use a cell phone, with current figures totaling over 800 million worldwide. It has has become an important part of daily life, and improves business and travel opportunities, whilst providing the best possible level of communication across the globe.
However, the high numbers of users are also subject to changing trends for a number of reasons including improved features, fashion and accessories. This means that upgrades are a regular occurrence, with each device being used for an estimated 12 to 18 months. This means that there is a lot of cell phone waste.
Many users are not aware of the potential damage to the environment that incorrect disposal of cell phones can cause. Incorrect disposal means throwing any cell phone away, which is the typical fate assigned to an unwanted device. However, components within it can have a terrible impact on the environment and so need special disposal. All cell phones contain persistent metals which do not degrade in the environment. They also contain bioaccumulative metals which become toxic over period of time.
For instance, cadmium which is present in a cell phone is significant enough to cause damage in small doses. It is the seventh most harmful known chemical, and is capable of causing cancer. Cell phones also contain lead which causes liver damage in adults and neurological development problems in children when entered into the bloodstream. Other hazardous substances such as nickel and mercury provide further cause for concern.
If not disposed of properly, the metals from the cell phone can leak into the environment through corrosion and cause a series of problems in the environment. If thrown away, it will go to a landfill where it will remain. As many elements do not decompose, the level of harmful toxins increases and so does the potential damage. Lithium can burn with water exposure, and so can potentially begin underground fires when present in large quantities. Any of the hazardous or poisonous substances could contaminate local water supplies or the nearby soil. If either of these is affected than the toxins enter the food chain with terrible results.
In effect, incorrect disposal of the cell phone can create a form of poisoning. The immediate effects include health problems such as genetic or reproductive defects and detrimental effects upon the nervous system and delayed general development. The long term effect is global pollution. When waste that can not be broken down properly such as that in a cell phone is decomposing it creates methane gas. Methane gas is more damaging than CO2 and so has major impact on global warming. Not many people realize that all this can be caused by disposing it in an incorrect manner.
The best way to combat cell phone damage to the environment is to recycle it by returning it to a shop. This includes the accessories also. Some shops will ensure the product is sent to developing countries for reuse. Others will reclaim the metal parts to prevent them going into a landfill. Some cell phone companies even make a charity donation for every recycled device to encourage the practice. The other possibility is that they will ensure the product is sent for proper disposal. This includes disposal of hazardous materials.
Whichever option is used, the positive side effect is that less hazardous waste goes into the environment. Now that you know the facts, make sure that you dispose of your cell phone properly and remain environmentally sound with this one simple gesture.