How much is a ton of old recycled phones worth? $15,000, thanks to the silver, gold, palladium and copper used in each phone. (That's about $2.50 in precious metals per phone.)
The value of e-waste was the topic at the world's first-ever e-waste academy, where more urgent questions were like these: How does Peru manage to refurbish more than 85% of the old computers it imports, while the rate is 20% in Nigeria, Pakistan and Ghana? How can China police its estimated 2 million "backyard" e-waste recyclers, so that they aren't incinerating old devices to recover precious metals, releasing toxic pollution in the process? How can discarded electronics from North America, Europe and Japan benefit schools and small businesses in Africa, Asia and South America?
The goal of the organizer, Solving the E-Waste Problem (which goes by the acronym StEP), is to boost recycling and reuse rates, while protecting third-world countries from the hazards that can accompany both e-waste recycling and dumping.
The conclusion: "Processes and policies governing the reuse and recycling of electronic products need to be standardized worldwide to stem and reverse the growing problem of illegal and harmful e-waste processing practices in developing countries."
"Millions of old devices in North America and Europe could easily double their typical three or four year 'first life' by being put to use in classrooms and small business offices across Africa, South America and Asia," says Ramzy Kahhat of Arizona State University, who advocates a return deposit on electronics similar to that used on carbonated beverage containers in many states, so that devices are recycled promptly while they're still most useful to a new user. "An old Pentium II computer with an open-source operating system like Linux can run faster than some of the latest new models on store shelves."
If you're ready to recycle an old cell phone, laptop, iPhone, digital camera or other electronic device and want to harvest some cash in exchange for the precious metals or years of life it embodies, one option is NextWorth, which will pay you for your old phone (or at least cover the cost of shipping it, if the company deems it to have no value). The trade-in value of devices ranges as high as $340, and averages $25 or $30.
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