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What Happens to Cell Phones That Are Not Properly Recycled?

Dec 15, 2021 •

Smartphones and other electronics contain many chemicals that are harmful to the environment if the devices aren’t properly disposed of. Here’s what happens if you fail to properly recycle an old cell phone.

A Massive Global Impact

The impact that not properly recycling smartphones has can hardly be understated. Estimates place the number of old phones in the U.S. that could be recycled at 600 million, and that number is expected to increase by 100 million just this year. Altogether, that’s approximately twice as many phones as there are people in the United States.

The impact becomes even greater when accessories and other devices are also considered. Chargers and tablets both also have harmful components. Many people have at least one tablet, and most people have multiple unused chargers in a forgotten drawer.

If phones and other devices aren’t disposed of correctly, the impact is enormous. The whole world is affected at this scale.

Phones in Landfills

When smartphones aren’t properly recycled, the alternative is that they end up in landfills or other waste areas. These may be local, regional, or international landfills, but the incorrect disposal causes problems no matter what landfill or other areas the phones are discarded in.

Phones simply don’t degrade when they’re in landfills. The plastic and metal components in phones don’t break down — and they’ll be in landfills for virtually forever.

Instead, their components leach harmful chemicals into the surrounding area. Metals from the wiring, solder and other components can seep into water and soil:

  • Lead: Lead is known to cause decreases in intellectual ability, increases in high blood pressure, and kidney damage, among other health issues.
  • Mercury: Mercury is known to cause intellectual decreases, slower reflexes and reduced motor skills, among other issues.
  • Cadmium: Cadmium is known to cause cancer, as well as damage to the reproductive, cardiovascular, nervous and respiratory systems.

The effects of these chemicals are well-documents in humans, and they have similar negative impacts on animals. Even if people nearby don’t ingest the chemicals (and many do at overseas landfills), the environmental harm still extends to animals. Plants too can be affected by groundwater and/or soil contamination.

As the chemicals make their way up the food chain, through plants and animals, they can eventually reach people too.

MLG Cash Recycles Phones Responsibly

At MLG Cash, we’re committed to the responsible recycling of smartphones. We receive many phones, and each one is correctly disposed of:

  • Phones may be reused if their model and condition permit.
  • Components that can be recycled for other phones/products are.
  • Toxic chemicals that can’t be recycled are properly discarded.

The reusing of phones decreases how many materials must be mined for new phones, and recycling materials both reduces raw material sourcing and how much waste enters landfills. Toxic chemicals that can’t be reused must be discarded, but we ensure that they’re disposed of in a way that doesn’t contaminate the surrounding environment.

In fact, our efforts to take care of the environment go beyond just recycling properly. We also plant a tree for every phone that we receive. With more than 600 million phones available for recycling, that’d make a veritable forest — many forests have far fewer trees.

We Make Recycling Old Smartphones Easy

In doing our part, we also strive to do right by those who use our service. We continually pay top dollar (30 percent more than many competitors) for used phones, and we accept a wide range of Apple and Android devices. We’ll take phones going back to the iPhone 7, and similarly aged Samsung devices.

Additionally, we’ve partnered with the UPS Stores in order to make drop-off easy. The chain has more than 5,000 locations nationwide, and one likely is only a few miles from you.

This not only makes it convenient to turn over your phone, but it even helps reduce vehicle emissions when doing so. Once at the store UPS is able to group our shipment together, which further minimizes the environmental impact of selling phones. (Bonus: take public transit to one of the many locations, reducing emissions even more.

To sell your old phone with us, fill out our short online form. Once complete, you can see just what your phone is worth. Tak it to a UPS Store afterward, and we’ll pay instantly via Paypal or Walmart Cash Pickup. Get rewarded for doing your part by responsibly recycling old phones today.