Fighting e-waste one mobile phone at a time

ReCellular handles thousands of unwanted handsets every day, fixing them up for resale or sending them to be melted down and recycled

With most Americans switching their mobile handsets once every 18 months, the need to find safe ways to dispose of old mobile phones has only grown. ReCellular, a self-described "electronics-sustainability" firm based in the US, has spent the past two decades working with the US-based Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) to become a major recycler and reseller of mobile handsets and accessories. Every day, ReCellular processes thousands of unwanted handsets and either fixes them for resale or sends them off to be melted down and recycled. ReCellular Vice President Mike Newman spoke with Brad Reed about how his company is helping to reduce e-waste, as well as how enterprises can benefit from donating their mobile devices for reuse and recycling.

When did ReCellular come into existence?

We've been around since 1991, which means that we've been around long enough to be called an overnight success. [laughs] Initially, our business revolved around leasing mobile phones to users back when a handset would cost thousands of dollars. But when carriers started subsidizing their phones at dramatically lower costs, we were stuck with a lot of old phones. It was then that we transitioned from a leasing company to a used phone sales company.

What is the need that you're trying to meet?

As mobile phones have become more ubiquitous, we estimate that there are between 100 million and 130 million phones that are thrown away every year. That's a tremendous glut and it poses questions on what we should do with tech we no longer want or need. What we do is run the mobile phone industry's program for Verizon, AT&T, Motorola and other major industry players. They use us to handle their recycling program.

How big of a problem is electronic waste?

One phone on its own is pretty small, but when you do the math on the millions of phones discarded every year, it's quite dramatic. And if you include the batteries and all the different components within the phones, then in the aggregate it's pretty big. E-waste is seen as an up and coming issue, and government and interest groups are only starting to see how big of a problem it is.

What parts of mobile phones can actually be recycled and what parts still have to be thrown out?

We have "zero landfill" policy, which means that we don't just recycle handsets, but also batteries and chargers. Even the leather holsters that people use as mobile phone cases can be ground up and used as carpet backing material. When a mobile phone is sent to a recycling center, its electronic components are first ground up inside massive shredders and are then smelted -- that is, they heated up at high temperatures so their base metals are separated from one another and are able to be reused.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags e-waste

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brad Reed

Network World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?