Ever wondered what happens to old mobile phones?

If your family is anything like mine, you don't have to worry about that because they are collected, scavenged (if the power supply is still good for another phone of the same brand that another family member has, keep it for traveling) and recycled through a service at the Best Buy in town.

  • Some are smelted for their copper and gold.
  • Some are resold with some of the proceeds going to charity.
  • Some are shipped to Africa to start micro-telecom businesses.

Here's a New York Times treatise on the question of the last generation mobile phone. 

Two other recycling initiatives:

I remember at Nortel we had a program to deconstruct obsolete phone systems into their appropriate chips and Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs). The PCBs went to a book cover company who made the clean plastic as covers of journals and the like. I actually found a Nortel-branded (it said Northern Telecom) PCB journal cover at the Barnes & Noble in Plano TX about 2002. The chips were sold to Asia where manufacturers used them in various products.

My friend Pat Montani recycles bicycles for Africa through an organization he setup called bicycles-for-humanity where socially minded individuals organize bike drives to collect the used bikes in a town. They arrange for a shipping container and ship the bikes to Africa where it forms a great personal transport mechanism. 

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