Recycling Challenge: Cell Phone Chargers

Story by Samantha Wittchen

FACT: Globally, 51,000 to 82,000 tons of cell phone charger waste is generated per year.

PROBLEM: One hundred million cell phones become obsolete each year and, in most cases, so do their chargers. The European Commission has recently solved this problem for residents of the European Union by persuading 10 major cell phone manufacturers to sign an agreement that takes effect this year to make a universal charger for all phones. Unfortunately for those of us living on this side of the Atlantic, without governmental pressure to change, cell phone manufacturers are in no rush to provide the same waste-reducing technology to the American market. Industry experts believe that the U.S. will ultimately follow Europe’s lead, but they’re not saying when. In the meantime, that adds up to tens of thousands of cell phone chargers, comprised of various recyclable metals and plastic, headed to the landfill.

SOLUTION: In the last few years, it seems as if cell phone recycling kiosks have sprung up at retail outlets everywhere. The problem is that many of those kiosks accept only the cell phone and not the charger. While the same is true for some wireless carriers’ recycling programs, AT&T and T-Mobile (which are in the process of merging) and Sprint accept chargers, regardless of the manufacturer or carrier. Simply take your charger to an AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint retail store, and they’ll take it off your hands. Can’t make it to a store? AT&T and T-Mobile also offer prepaid mailing. Visit either company’s website to download a shipping label and send off the half-dozen obsolete chargers you’ve been hoarding in your desk drawer.