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More than 5 billion mobile phones to become waste this year

What do you do with your old phone when you replace it? If you’re one of the responsible folks who trade it in or recycle it, then good for you.

But according to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum, most mobile phones that get switched off for good simply disappear into drawers, closets, and garages, or get chucked into trash cans bound for landfills or incineration.

And when you consider that an estimated 5.3 billion mobile phones will be discarded in 2022 alone, what you do with your own devices really matters.

WEEE — an international not-for-profit organization focused on the collection and treatment of electrical and electronic waste — spoke out ahead of its International E-Waste Day on Friday, October 14.

Keen to highlight the importance of recycling diminutive devices, the slogan for this year’s E-Waste Day is: “Recycle it all, no matter how small.”

Pascal Leroy, director general of WEEE, said this year’s campaign is focusing on small items “because it’s very easy for them to accumulate unused and unnoticed in households, or to be tossed into the ordinary garbage bin. People tend not to realize that all these seemingly insignificant items have a lot of value, and together at a global level represent massive volumes.”

Indeed, to help people better understand that astonishing 5.3 billion figure, WEEE said that if the phones have an average depth of 9mm and were piled flat on top of one another, the stack would rise 31,000 miles (about 50,000 kilometers). That’s 120 times higher than the International Space Station and one-eighth of the way to the moon.

The advantage of recycling mobile phones and other electronic devices is that it gives manufacturers access to their non-renewable natural resources like gold, copper, silver, and palladium, as well as other components that can be used again in new products.

In an effort to learn why so many people hold onto their old devices rather than opting to recycle or repair them, WEEE carried out a survey this year involving 8,775 households in six European countries. The most common reasons for holding onto old gadgets were:

– I might use it again in the future (46%)
– I plan on selling it/giving it away (15%)
– It has sentimental value (13%)
– It might have value in the future (9%)
– I don’t know how to dispose of it (7%)

Keeping them in the drawer is one thing. But throwing old gadgets into the trash can is an even bigger problem, as it creates a huge amount of unnecessary waste that needs energy and resources to handle.

So, if you have an old phone that you’re about to throw out, or any kind of electronic device gathering dust in the closet, have a serious think about recycling it. Digital Trends has a handy guide for U.S.-based folks, while those in other countries need only do a quick web search for information.

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