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Environmental Hazards of Electronic Waste

When signing a new contract with a cell phone provider—which usually happens once every year or two—you often have the option of buying a new phone at a significant discount. And with the recent proliferation of Internet-enabled phones, even more old phones are now out of use—often shoved into drawers and forgotten. With an average lifespan of 18 months, it's no wonder that between 100 million and a half billion phones are ready to be discarded.

This is good for your service provider because they sign up another customer. It's good for you because you have the opportunity to get the latest technology. But it could be catastrophic for the environment.

If these phones end up in landfills, the materials used to make these cell phones could wreak serious havoc on the environment, some say. According to the website RecyclingforCharities.com, cell phones contain toxic materials and heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium, antimony and nickel. They say electronic waste, or "e-waste"—which includes cell phones, computers, TVs and other electronic devices—is the source of more than 75 percent of those toxins found in landfills. If these electronic devices are not properly handled, some of these toxins can leak out of the landfill space and into the water supply and hurt wildlife.

If those cell phones were recycled, however, enough energy could be conserved to power nearly 200,000 homes for a year. Many technology stores and even some municipalities collect old electronics and recycle them. Find out more about recycling your e-waste from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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