An Avalanche of Toxic E-Waste

Thousands of tons of electronic waste hit landfills each year as users upgrade to new mobile phones and discard the old ones.

According to British newspaper The Independent, there are already 11,000 tons of unused cellular phones in the United Kingdom that have not yet been disposed of. Most of these phones will eventually be discarded, along with old laptops, portable music players and video game consoles. These electronic products are made with highly toxic metals and other chemicals that leach into the earth when discarded.

An estimated 1 billion mobile phone handsets are sold each year, with 1 million per day coming from Nokia alone. Most cellular phone service providers lure new customers by promising a free new handset for those who sign up. While many companies offer to recycle used mobile phones for consumers, the vast majority of such phones are still thrown away.

The prevalence of recycled phones is expected to increase as the problem of e-waste enters the public consciousness and stricter regulations force more companies to tackle the problem. ABI Research estimates that these factors, in addition to shorter handset replacement cycles and a greater demand for cheaper phones will cause the recycled handset market to be worth $3 billion by 2012, with recycled phone shipments numbering above 100 million.