For Immediate Release
March 5, 2008

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461


KDHE Encourages Kansans to Recycle Unused Cell Phones

The planet now has more than 2.7 billion cell phone subscribers, says the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). That’s nearly one out of every three people on Earth, and there could be as many as 2 million subscribers in Kansas. According to the International Association of the Wireless Telecommunications Industry (CITIA), nearly 950 million phones were sold last year alone, with an estimated 1.3 million sold in Kansas .

There are now three times as many cell phones as automobiles or computers and about twice as many mobile phone users as Internet users or credit cards users.

Fortunately, it has become easier to recycle a cell phone that has outlived its usefulness . The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with retailers, manufacturers and service providers recently introduced the “Recycle Your Cell Phone: It’s an Easy Call.” campaign. Eleven companies, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Staples, Best Buy and Office Depot are involved.

“Recycling a cell phone helps to reduce pollution, save energy and conserve natural resources,” stated Bill Bider, Director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), Bureau of Waste Management. “Old cell phones can also be reconditioned or donated to shelters such as the Battered Women’s Task Force or to law enforcement agencies to provide emergency communications.”

Bider said the measures help reduce the need for mining raw materials to make more cell phones, and keep the hazardous materials they contain out of landfills and incinerators, where those materials can get into soil, water and air. But cell phones also contain other substances – valuable ones that can be recycled.

According to the USGS, the 500 million phones now lying unused in American homes and businesses contain more than 17 million pounds of copper, 6 million ounces of silver, 600,000 ounces of gold, and 250,000 ounces of palladium. In fact, there is enough gold in about 200 cell phones to make a gold wedding band.

In addition, the EPA estimates that recycling 100 million cell phones could save enough energy to power more than 194,000 households with electricity for one year. According to the agency, about 130 million, or roughly 65,000 tons, of cell phones will be retired every year for the next three years in the U.S., and less than 20 percent of these will be recycled.

Customers typically discard and replace their phones every 18 months according to the 2007 Mobile Market Report compiled by the mobile industry.

For more information about the Recycle Your Cell Phone: It’s An Easy Call campaign, please visit www.epa.gov/epawaste/partnerships/plugin/cellphone/index.htm.