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Environmental and economic trade-offs in consumer electronic products recycling: a case study of cell phones and computers

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4 Author(s)
A. K. Bhuie ; Dept. of Environ. Health, Sci., & Policy, California Univ., Irvine, CA, USA ; O. A. Ogunseitan ; J. -D. M. Saphores ; A. A. Shapiro

The fate of retired cell phones differs from that of retired PCs: approximately 70% of retired collected cell phones are refurbished and resold (the remaining units are recycled or discarded) whereas only a small percentage of PCs are ever used again. Considerable attention has been focused to develop policies that minimize the environmental impacts of electronic waste in general, but there is little consistency between the strategies because trade-offs between economic costs and environmental benefits are not well understood. This paper presents results of a survey conducted to better understand the economics of cell phone recycling. We find that the net cost to recyclers of collecting each cell phone ($6) far exceeds the estimated cost to transport, sort, dismantle, refine, and dispose of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes ($0.74) associated with discarded phones. These results were compared with the collection and processing cost of PCs for which recycling is typically not profitable. Our findings are informative for formulating better policies to manage the end-of-life of consumer electronic products.

Published in:

Electronics and the Environment, 2004. Conference Record. 2004 IEEE International Symposium on

Date of Conference:

10-13 May 2004