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Recycled Cell Phones: A Treasure Trove of Valuable Metals

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By Daniel E. Sullivan

This U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Fact Sheet examines the potential value of recycling the metals found in obsolete cell phones.

Cell phones seem ubiquitous in the United States and commonplace throughout most of the world. There were approximately 1 billion cell phones in use worldwide in 2002. In the United States, the number of cell phone subscribers increased from 340,000 in 1985 to 180 million in 2004.

Worldwide, cell phone sales have increased from slightly more than 100 million units per year in 1997 to an estimated 779 million units per year in 2005. Cell phone sales are projected to exceed 1 billion units per year in 2009, with an estimated 2.6 billion cell phones in use by the end of that year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that, by 2005, as many as 130 million cell phones would be retired annually in the United States. The nonprofit organization INFORM, Inc., anticipated that, by 2005, a total of 500 million obsolete cell phones would have accumulated in consumers' desk drawers, store rooms, or other storage, awaiting disposal. Typically, cell phones are used for only 1-1/2 years before being replaced.

Less than 1 percent of the millions of cell phones retired and discarded annually are recycled. When large numbers of cell phones become obsolete, large quantities of valuable metals end up either in storage or in landfills. The amount of metals potentially recoverable would make a significant addition to total metals recovered from recycling in the United States and would supplement virgin metals derived from mining.

Download Recycled Cell Phones: A Treasure Trove of Valuable Metals

1.2 Billion Cell Phones Sold in 2009

2009 Update from Apple Insider.

Gartner: Weak 2009 for mobile phones (Editor's note: But still 1.2 billion new units were sold and will eventually be retired and thrown away)

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Though it could have been worse, research firm Gartner said Tuesday that overall mobile phone sales in 2009 will end up down 0.67 percent at 1.214 billion units. That's an improvement over September, when the firm had projected the year would see a 3.7 percent decline.

The situation has improved due to stronger than expected sales in Western Europe. But reduced sales in Eastern Europe, Japan, Latin America and Africa will bring overall sales down from 2008's 1.222 billion.

2010 is predicted to improve, as Gartner has forecast growth of 9 percent. That would amount to 1.322 billion sales for the calendar year.

Start Your Own Home Based Salvage & Recycling Business with Little or No Cash

Recently I published the Home Based Salvage & Recycling Business Manual. It is based in my experiences in the business. My hope is that you will learn to avoid my mistakes and profit through my successes. Though it is always a good business, it is especially viable in the current hard economic times. Learn more about the home based salvage and recycling business.

Click here to learn how you can make the money that you need and want in this home-based business.

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Michael Meuser bootstrapped his way into the salvage and recycling business in the early 1980s. He began with building deconstruction and scrap metals and then moved into electronics, computer and telecommunications scrap where he learned to recover gold and other precious metal.
Michael tells his story, provides resources and offers his advice at his website, RecyclingSecrets.com, and his blog, Recycling Secrets Blog. Recently Mike completed the eBook How to Make Money in the Home Based Salvage and Recycling Business. It is a chronicle of his experiences, successes and failures in the business. Also, you can follow Michael on Twitter.

Email Mike

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