Hello Earth

Why You Should Recycle Your Old Cell Phone

March 2020

Of the more than 70 million cell phones purchased every year in the United States, only 10% are recycled. What happens to the rest? The vast majority of old smartphones are left to collect dust in drawers, serving no purpose whatsoever. Others are thrown away and end up in a garbage dump or are incinerated.

So where’s the problem? Well, discarded smartphones can cause lasting damage to soils, jeopardize biodiversity, and affect human health. In this article, we’ll look at the things you can do to give your old cell phone a second life.

Cell phone production causes an incredible amount of pollution

80% of the CO2 emissions emitted during the life cycle of a smartphone are generated during its production.

80% 80
But that’s not all: in general, cell phones are composed of:
  • 50% plastic
  • 15% glass
  • 15% copper
  • 4% cobalt
  • metal byproducts (gold, silver, lead, mercury, and other potentially dangerous substances)

Screens, electronic components, and batteries are made with:



a quarter of which come from illegal mines.

Discarded cell phones are a harmful source of pollution affecting soils, bodies of water, biodiversity, and human health. For example, just one cell phone battery can contaminate up to 600,000 liters of water.

By properly recycling your old smartphone, you’ll allow for metals to be reused in the production of other electrical and electronic equipment, and help with the destruction of toxic materials.

How to recycle your old cell phone

If your smartphone is no longer in use or you’d like to replace it, then it becomes what is known as electronic waste (e-waste).


Rather than throwing your smartphone away or storing it in the back of a drawer, why not try to sell it? Even if your old phone is completely broken, it’s still likely to bring in a few precious dollars. And maybe even help pay for a new phone.


So what happens to your phone after it’s recycled?

If it still works, it’s completely refurbished and reintroduced in the second-hand market. But if it’s totally kaput, it’s sent to a company specializing in the deconstruction and recycling of electronic devices. It will then pass through a series of steps aimed at extracting reusable elements. Yep, that means your Samsung Galaxy may actually be composed of parts from an old phone. Crazy, right?

  • Recycled phones start out by being disassembled, with potentially toxic components such as batteries, processors, and memory cards removed by hand.
  • Then comes mechanical processing, when the rest of the phone is crushed and sorted by material.

This makes it possible to produce the materials that will go into the production of new devices, all the while conserving natural resources. It also creates new jobs.

The next step? 

Recycling your phone is good, but purchasing a refurbished smartphone is even better.

The leader in the sale of refurbished electronic goods in France, Back Market has been operating in the United States for a year and a half now, and is committed to fighting planned obsolescence and reducing the amount of electronic waste that is generated every year. Refurbished by certified professionals, all the products in our catalog are in perfect working condition and available for 30-70% of the price of a new device.


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