Cell Phone Recycling…It’s the LAW!

We all have them! Used cell phones that are living out there last days in a drawer or closet. The question is: “What do I do with them?” The answer is easy. RECYCLE THEM! In Maine…it’s the law!

What’s the big deal?

According to the First Annual Update on the Recycling of Cellular Telephones in Maine (Maine Department of Environmental Protection, February 2009), cell phones contain materials such as “arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc”. Most of these materials are components of the circuit boards that make the phones work. They are essential to the performance of the phone. But, they are potential environmental contaminants when not properly disposed of.

According to this same report, most cell phone users replace their phones every 18-24 months. In Maine, this accounts for 450,000 unused cell phones each year. Of this number only 1% are recycled.

It’s the LAW!

The 123rd Legislature enacted Public Law Chapter 343, An Act To Promote Recycling of Cellular Telephones (38 M.R.S.A. §2143). For the purpose of this article, the important part of this law reads:

2. Collection system. Effective January 1, 2008, a retailer shall accept, at no charge, used cellular telephones from any person. A retailer required to accept used cellular telephones under this subsection shall post, in a prominent location open to public view, a notice printed in boldface type and containing the following language: “We accept used cellular telephones at no charge.”

3. Disposal ban. Effective January 1, 2008, a person may not dispose of a cellular telephone in solid waste for disposal in a solid waste disposal facility.

So, What do I do now?

If you are reading this blog and you are a retailer, comply with the law (if you aren’t already). I found everything at http://www.maine.gov/ under the DEP section.

If you are like my friend Kelly (the Marketing Maven at Sephone Internet Solutions), and are holding on to some used equipment, bring it to me at Central Maine Wireless in the Broadway Shopping Center in Bangor.

We have a great recycling program. We partner with Larry Reynolds, a Bangor businessman, to recycle used phones and help local schools. Larry collects our recycled phones, sends them to four different processing companies (the one he uses most is Office Products Recycling Associates) and divides the proceeds among four or five different educational institutions, most notably Bangor and Brewer High Schools’ Project Graduation programs.

If you can’t make it to our location, know that every cell phone retailer is required to have a program in place. Bring your useless equipment into any store (it doesn’t even have to be the company who supplies your service) and they will dispose of it properly for you.

There are also several local and national organizations that will provide recycling of used cell phones and donate the proceeds to various charitable causes. An internet search will yield hundreds of results. Find one that you feel comfortable with and contact them about how to properly dispose of your old phone.


In my next blog, I’m going to ask the question: “How clean is your phone?”

And I want an honest answer!


About Paul H-C

Just an avid reader in the little town of Bangor, Maine (Yes, that Bangor...home of Stephen King). When I'm not reading and drinking coffee, I sell cell phones by the sea shore.
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