E-Waste 101: Where Do Our Old Phones End Up?

Think back to your old phones and devices. What were once new and advanced gadgets are most likely now sitting in your home’s junk drawer. On a more serious note, there’s a strong chance they could be sitting in a landfill just waiting to wreak havoc on our ecosystem. What is it about old devices that makes them so harmful to the planet? And just how bad is the issue at hand? Well, Dr. M. Sanjayan has the answers that put things into perspective.


Dr. Sanjayan teamed up with Vox Video  and University of California to take a closer look at the constant accumulation of the population’s old electronics, and it’s not a pretty sight.

One Too Many

shipThe damage begins before consumers even un-box their new tech with mass electronic production. The video notes that the production process entails a great deal of resources, including several long trips on barges for sourcing, assembly and distribution. These ships alone generate the same amount of smog and pollution as all the cars in the world.

“That’s the fundamental way we use technology today in that it’s innovating so fast and built in such a way that it actually promotes disposability,” states Dr. Sanjayan.

The average American swaps out their phone every 18-20 months, which may seem less wasteful. However, we still managed to produce and sell nearly 1.4 billion phones in 2016 alone.

Silent Dangers 

It’s clear there is a surplus problem with old devices, but many remain unaware of the lurking dangers inside old tech. Piling up in our nation’s landfills, these expired gadgets contain corrosive components such as old batteries and materials that present a great danger to our natural resources.

These materials are just as dangerous remaining in your phone graveyard at home, but there are a few responsible solutions available.

binFixing the Problem 

With a major influx of devices each and every year, how does one help to protect our planet’s resources? There stands a few varied answers, each one helping to take one step closer to better e-waste management.

If you live in New York or California, there’s good news: it’s required by law in these states that the phone retailer accepts your old device back for recycling.

Dr. Sanjayan mentions Gazelle in the above video, stating that “Companies like Gazelle will even buy your old phones off of you.” That’s right- we offer you cash for your used devices. We accept all devices for recycling purposes, meaning even that completely obliterated flip phone in your drawer can still be recycled with us.

When you recycle your old phones, you aren’t only helping to reduce waste. Several resources can be found in phones that can be re-purposed for a second life. Dr. Sanjayan mentions how the solver found in the circuits of an iPhone can be used for solar paneling. Additionally, the Tungsten that allows for your phone to buzz and vibrate can be used in precision tools.

“As people become more aware, companies become more sensitive to this issue,” comments Dr. Sanjayan. At Gazelle, we strive on a daily basis to improve the device life cycle standards. It’s time to empty out those junk drawers and make a positive change by recycling your old devices today.

Gazelle.com wishes to thank University of California for producing the informative video. If you’d like to learn more, please visit https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/climate-lab.