Since I travel and move around so often, I seem to always have a buildup of stuff that I then try to downsize. I thought I had gotten my stuff down to a reasonable amount, but then I went back to my parents’ house and opened the garage… yikes!
As I was going through old boxes of stuff in the garage, I came across three old iPhones going back as far as 2008. These cost me a lot of money, and since I do not want to just throw them away, I went online to find out if there was a way to get rid of them in a sustainable way. This is where I stumbled into the cell phone recycling industry and the implications of e-waste.
Why Recycling Matters
Did you know that 7.1 billion smartphones have been made since 2007, which means that everyone on the planet, including infants, should have a smartphone? But given our desire for newer shinier models, the average person has their iPhone for only two years before discarding it for the latest iteration. This is hardly sustainable as most of the discarded phones end up in landfills, where they pollute the environment and groundwater.
The Circular Economy
According to the circular economy model, there are three critical elements to bring about change. These are; closed cycles, renewable energy, and systems thinking.
- Closed Cycles – Assumes that there is no waste in material cycles as every product can be repaired or its components reused after their useful life.
- Renewable Energy – Similar to products and raw materials, energy is never lost but is renewable throughout the cycle.
- Systems Thinking – Every actor in the economy affects others by their actions, and hence a person who wastes causes adverse outcomes for others and vice versa.
Under the circular economy model, the following are a few examples showing why it is so critical to recycle your iPhone:
- Recycling a single smartphone saves enough power to charge a laptop for 44 hours, according to Marie Vickers of the EPA.
- If all the 130 million phones that are thrown away by Americans were recycled, we could save enough energy that could power up to 24,000 average-sized homes annually.
- Recycling a million phones could recover significant quantities of precious raw materials including 35,274 pounds of copper, 75 pounds of gold, 33 pounds of palladium, and 772 pounds of silver.
- Smartphones usually contain hazardous material such as brominated flame retardants, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury which would contaminate groundwater, soil, and air if dumped into landfills.
5 Easy Ways to Recycle Your Old or Broken iPhone
One of the easiest ways to get dispose of your iPhone is to find a retail store with a recycling program. Just search for apple iPhone recycle near me, iPhone disposal or recycle iPhone for cash and you should see a ton of outlets to take your old phone. You can always find a Staples, Amazon, Apple in-store trade-in or Best Buy Trade-In Program that will take a smartphone off of your hands for some credits or cash.
1. Use the Apple Recycle Program
Apple, just like many other manufactures, provides a comprehensive smartphone, laptop and iPad recycle and trade-in program for your old devices. The Apple Recycle program has built a huge recycling bot named Daisy that can take apart and recycle 200 iPhones every hour regardless of the make.
The Apple Trade-in program thus allows you to exchange your old iPhone and then depending on the condition of the device; you could get credit towards your next purchase of anything from Apple computers, tablets, and smartphones. Aside from Apple, there are various third-party companies that are dedicated in significantly minimizing e-waste where you can sell your old tech at a competitive and reasonable price.
I recently got a new iPhone and was able to send in my old Android phone to Apple and receive a discount on the new phone.
2. Donate to Charity
There are many local charity organizations such as Lyon’s and Rotary Clubs among other nonprofits such as scouting organizations, churches, and schools that have programs for e-waste collection. Most of these will take your old electronics and smartphones and ensure it is recycled after which they can use the proceeds to support their charitable activities.
3. Use State-Sponsored Recycling Schemes
While there is a lot of variation on state-sponsored recycling programs, you can be certain that your state has some form of recycling programs for your particular brand of smartphone.
4. Gift it to Friends and Family
No one wants to be the uncool kid at the party with the iPhone 9 while the latest iPhone XS is the in-thing. If you have already upgraded to the latest iPhone, you can gift your old smartphone to a family member or friend who may not have the money to buy the newest iteration. Most of the time they would be grateful to get a great device in good working condition even if it is unfashionable by a few years.
5. Upcycle your iPhone
Even though you may have upgraded to a newer iPhone, that does not make your old one obsolete as it may still be in good working condition. An old smartphone can still be used as an electronic toy for children, or if not, they can listen to music, stream movies, or play games on it. If you do not have children, you can use the iPhone as a music player, video chat, or movie streaming device, or additional Wi-Fi-enabled device.
E-waste is a significant problem that will only get worse if nothing is done. With estimates showing that e-waste could make up to 70% of the toxic waste in dumpsites yet making only 2% of all the waste, adopting circular economy thinking is critical. With more than 350 million phones dumped into landfills every year, it would make a huge difference to recycle your iPhone in an environmentally friendly manner.