The Life and Times of a Typical Cell Phone

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Last updated April 12, 2019

Many Americans have probably never thought about the lifecycle of the electronics they use every day, but cell phones just like all other electronic items have a certain ebb and flow to their existence.

Stages in a Cell Phone’s Life

Before a cell phone can ever be ‘born’, the raw material must be mined from the earth and in some cases, processed through chemical means in order to construct the advanced polymers that make up key components.  Once this is completed, the phone is manufactured, an event somewhat similar to ‘being born’.

The cell phone can then be purchased and used for a number of months or even years, but sooner or later, the user will decide he needs to upgrade to a newer style of handset or will for some other reason want to switch phones.  At this point, there are two choices.  The cell phone user can throw away the phone, in which case it will end up in a landfill or incinerator.  Both of these outcomes cause pollution and waste the precious natural resources that went into the phone in the first place.  Alternatively, the user can find a way to recycle the phone, a much better option.

Recycled phones are either refurbished for resale, or they are broken down into their component parts so that raw materials such as plastic, copper, and gold can be repurposed.