The industry is being fueled by growing cell phone ownership, the emergence of smartphone technologies and rapid rates of mobile phone replacement rates.
According to the EPA, between 130 million and 150 million cell phones are thrown away in the US annually. For every 1 million cell phones recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper and 772 pounds of silver can be recovered, as well as small amounts of gold and palladium.
Rising commodity prices as a result of global demand from emerging economies have enabled cell phone recyclers to expand their operations and hire more workers, which in turn has rapidly increased the industry’s wage rates.
In addition, more high-end consumer devices have entered the industry, as consumers with rising disposable incomes tend to quickly upgrade to the latest model of smartphone. As a result, consumers’ older cell phones are wiped of personal information and sent to buyers either in the US or in emerging markets.
Regulations, though mostly at the state level, have also benefited industry operators. For almost 10 years, states such as California and Maine have required cell phone retailers to have a system in place for the acceptance and collection of used cell phones for reuse, recycling or proper disposal.
A report released earlier this year found that when it comes to mobile phone recycling programs, cash is the single biggest incentive for consumers in recycling phones, and very few recycling programs offer cash.
Photo Credit: Cell phones via Shutterstock