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How can mobile phones be recycled?

By Techopedia Staff | Last updated: July 2, 2020

The recycling of mobile phones and devices is very important, partially because of the planned obsolescence and quick evolution of these products. As traditional cell phones quickly morphed into today’s smartphone devices and other kinds of rapid evolution made certain hardware obsolete, the result has been a glut of potentially toxic electronic waste that can clog landfills and contaminate the environment. That makes mobile phone recycling an important aspect of health and safety around the world.

In the U.S., companies have started to collect mobile phones and devices from consumers for the purposes of recycling. So, the easiest way to recycle old mobile phones and other electronics is to use available kiosks located in shopping malls and other areas. Recycling companies are another option, and will typically pay consumers a few dollars for an old device, based on the value of its scrap, including precious metals like copper, gold, zinc and other materials that have a bit of value.

As an alternative, consumers can ask local municipalities about how waste departments handle electronic waste. The major goal of mobile phone recycling is to prevent consumers and families from simply throwing electronic devices away, because the same elements that have some commercial value could contaminate groundwater and cause other health and environmental impacts. As a result, some areas are tightening laws around the dumping of electronics, and promoting recycling to address the future of waste management.

Mobile phones and other electronics devices can be recycled largely through the principles of reverse engineering, where specific recycling processes work backwards according to initial manufacturing processes to separate different pieces and elements of these complex manufactured units. While many of these processes may just require prying apart individual metal or plastic pieces, some aspects of mobile phone recycling can require more advanced techniques and more specific resources aimed at "mining" embedded substances.

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