Wireless waste: most Americans keep their cell phones for only 18 months. Find out what that means for the environment.
1 Cell phones are made of numerous materials that deplete Earth's natural resources. For instance, cell phones contain precious metals, like gold and silver, which have to be mined from the earth. Many materials that go into a cell phone cause environmental damage during extraction and the refining process, says Lloyd Hicks, program adviser for the nonprofit group Inform Inc. in New York City. Although each cell phone contains a limited amount of these metals, with more than 229 million wireless subscribers in the United States, the environmental costs add up.
MAKING THE PHONE
2 Once manufacturers have all the raw components, it's time for them to produce the main pieces of the phone. They use plastics and fiberglass to make the shape of the circuit board, which they fit with electronic components, wires, and circuits. They also create the liquid-crystal display (LCD) and rechargeable battery.
PACKAGING & TRANSPORTATION
3 From the phones themselves to all the hottest accessories, there's a lot of packaging involved in the cell-phone business. Packaging consumes natural resources, such as trees to make paper and cardboard, and crude oil to make plastics. Plus, trucks, trains, and planes burn gas, a fossil fuel, in the process of delivering the products to stores.
4 Cell phones can last for much longer than most people use them. Always shop around before buying a cell phone. Make sure it has the features you want so you don't need to buy another one for a while, says Hicks. Also, take good care of your phone to make it last.
5 The best thing you can do is use your phone for as long as is reasonable, says Hicks. But when the time comes to part with your phone, don't toss it out. It can release harmful substances into the environment if it sits in a landfill or burns in an incinerator.
REUSE: Can't pass up the latest phone? Bring your old one to a cell phone store. If your phone still works, they'll see to it that it gets donated to a charity or resold as a refurbished phone.
RECYCLE: If a cell phone can't be reused, recycling is the best option, says Hicks. That way, workers can recapture the valuable metals inside for use in another electronics product. "It's better to mine the phones for these substances than mine the earth," he says.
DID YOU KNOW?
* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 125 million cell phones are discarded each year.
* In 2006, the United States had 172 million main telephone lines and had 233 million cell-phone subscribers, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
* How might cell-phone companies encourage their customers to dispose of old phones responsibly?
HISTORY/TECHNOLOGY: The world's first mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, went on the market in 1984. Have students research the history of cell phones and create a timeline of their development.
* To learn how to safely recycle cell phones and other electronics, visit this EPA Web site: www.epa.gov/ecycling/
* Learn how two teen siblings collect used cell phones to help raise money to provide calling cards for soldiers stationed overseas. Visit: www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/
CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING
DIRECTIONS: On a separate piece of paper, use details in the story to help you write the following.
1. You are a spokesperson for a conservation group, and you've been invited to be a guest on a talk show. Tell TV viewers how cell-phone production depletes Earth's natural resources.
2. You are heading a cell-phone recycling drive at your school. Tell fellow students why they should donate their old cell phones.
CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING, TE 5 & 6
1. Answers may vary but they should include the following: Cell phones are made of numerous materials that deplete Earth's natural resources. For example: Cell phones contain precious metals, like gold and silver, which have to be mined from the earth Besides the phones themselves and all the hottest accessories, there's a lot of packaging involved in the cell-phone business. Packaging consumes natural resources like trees to make paper and cardboard, and crude oil to make plastics Plus, vehicles burn gas, a fossil fuel, in the process of delivering the products to stores.
2. Answers may vary, but they should include the following: Trashing old cell phones can be harmful to the environment. When a tossed phone sits in a landfill or is burned in an incinerator, it can release harmful substances into the environment. By recycling old phones, workers can recapture the valuable metals inside for use in another electronics product This process is environmentally friendlier than mining the earth for fresh supplies of material to make the goods.
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|Title Annotation:||EARTH RECYCLING|
|Date:||Nov 12, 2007|
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