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Innovation

Where to ditch that old iPhone? Recycling and mobile phones

This story from the Environmental Leader is perfectly timed, considering the overwhelming media din over today's iPhone launch.According to a timed survey released by Nokia, it seems that only three percent of people opting for a new mobile phone actually recycle the old ones when they get upgrade-lust, even though that have become, in effect, sad hunks of mobile metal with no meaningful purpose in life.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

This story from the Environmental Leaderis perfectly timed, considering the overwhelming media din over today's iPhone launch. According to a timed survey released by Nokia, it seems that only three percent of people opting for a new mobile phone actually recycle the old ones when they get upgrade-lust, even though that have become, in effect, sad hunks of mobile metal with no meaningful purpose in life.

The surprising truth is that most people don't even think about this: 74 percent of the people surveyed by Nokia don't consider recycling their phones, even though approximately the same number say they are into recycling as a broader concept. Probably this might have something to do with the fact that about two-thirds of the people surveyed around the world by Nokia had no idea how to go about recycling their phone, even if they wanted to do so. (Incidentally, here's a link to a video about what happens to a mobile phone when it's recycled.)

All this means that the old Treo that my brother shunned this morning for a new iPhone 2.0 handset will either wind up in the garbage or somewhere in the storage bin he just rented for when he goes away overseas next month for a work assignment. I'm guessing the former, since we Clancys are not sentimental hoarders. (I still despair that my mother gave away her Apple Lisa.) But fortunately, it seems we're out of the norm in this regard, since 44 percent of the people surveyed by Nokia simple stash their old mobile phone somewhere rather than throwing it out when it's taken out of service. Others give their old mobile friends away to their family or friends or resell them into an emerging market.

What's scary, when you think about it, is that the average cell phone contract in the United States is two years, which means that every two years, you're pretty much encouraged to ditch your old phone for some thing newer and better even if the old one IS working just fine, thank you.

I'm one to talk, though. I've been having a moral dilemma about this since March, when the iPhone upgrade was "officially" announced. Mobile gadgets for me are the ultimate technology temptation: I have had three (maybe four) Palm gadgets, an early Windows mobile device and now, my iPhone.

I decided to be responsible, this morning, and simply to update my current hardware. Sadly, in its rush to handle the new sales in the store, Apple fell down big-time on supporting upgrades from the LOYAL, FAITHFUL, WONDERFUL FIRST-GENERATION OWNERS who actually made it cool to want an iPhone 2.0 in the first place. Hello, what were you thinking? I have been without a phone for the better part of the day waiting to connect to the download server. Yes, I guess I will blank this pain out. By the way, lest you think me a total moron, I initiated the upgrade by accident: I actually had wanted to wait until the initial onslaught was over. Wait, that makes me sound like even more of a moron, doesn't it? Anyway, I DO have my phone back in use, now, fortunately.

When I do decide to ditch my old iPhone, the good news is that Apple has provided an option for me to do responsibly through the cell phone recycling program that it announced earlier this year.

Here are some other resources to help you clear your desk drawer and feel a little better about your next mobile phone upgrade:

- CollectiveGood works in conjunction with a whole bunch of very well-known charities to distribute old phones in the Caribbean, Latin America, Eastern Europe and India. - GRC Wireless Recycling, which also has in place a fund-raising program that encourages non-profits to participate. - CellularChallenge.net - GreenPhone (which plants a tree for every mobile phone collected)

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