Lack of information keeping old cell phones in desk drawers

As plans for the new iPhone 5S and 5C are expected to be announced today at Apple’s Media Day, a new online poll conducted by Earth911 for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) finds that nearly 60 percent of the people who do not recycle old cell phones fail to do so because they either do not know where to recycle them or don’t trust that personal data will be destroyed. The results of this poll were released at the annual E-Scrap Conference, a gathering of more than 1,000 electronics recyclers, being held this week in Orlando.

“As people anxiously await the arrival of the latest iPhone, it is important to keep in mind the need to recycle old cell phones,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “The results of this poll fall in line with the recent report by the U.S. International Trade Commission indicating that only 25 percent of all household used electronic products are recycled. Using a certified electronics recycler guarantees that all personal data in the phone will be destroyed and gives the phone a second life either through the recovery of scrap commodities or refurbishment and use by those in this country or abroad who might not otherwise have access to such technology.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for every million cell phones, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered and reused.

“There’s still so much confusion about how to recycle cell phones and whether it can be done without potentially exposing personal data, even with an eco-savvy audience such as our readership,” said Mario Medina, creative director at Earth911. “Explaining the damage that e-scrap has on the environment and educating people on the options available for safely recycling cell phones will go a long way toward increasing the recycling rates.”

When considering an electronics recycler, consumers should take the following into consideration:

  • How long the recycler has been in business;
  • How long the recycler has been handling electronics;
  • Whether the recycler guarantees data destruction; and
  • Most importantly, whether the recycler is certified to handle electronics to the highest level of environmental, health and safety standards. A list of certified electronics recyclers can be found online at www.certifymerecycling.org/find-certified-facility.


To find out where to recycle other items at a location near you, visit the Earth911 Recycling Guide at earth911.com/recycling.

The poll question and answer results are below:

What is the main reason you haven’t recycled your old cell phone(s)?

A. I might need it down the road. 21%
B. I don’t know where to take it to be recycled. 30%
C. I am worried about the safety of my personal info. 29%
D. I just never get around to it. 20%

Note: The Earth911/ISRI Opinion Poll was conducted via the Earth911 website (www.Earth911.com) from June 20, 2013, to September 9, 2013, and was answered by 923 individuals.