Throwing a cell phone in the trash is never a good idea. Starting June 1, it will also be against the law in Westchester. “Westchester County will be the only government in the country, other than California, to require cell phone recycling,” said County Executive Andy Spano. “These dangerous cell phone components, if simply thrown away, have a way of turning up in our streams and natural environment,” said Spano. “This law will put a stop to that.”
The law prohibits the disposal of cell phones in the garbage and requires every used cell phone be disposed of at a certified phone recycling center. These are locations certified by the county Department of Environmental Facilities (DEF) such as cell phone retail outlets, Household Chemical Cleanup Day programs or cell phone recycling collection centers set up by government offices, libraries, fire houses, businesses, schools and not-for-profit organizations.
A list of these collection centers are available at www.westchestergov.com/cellphone or by calling the Recycling Helpline at (914) 813-5420. Violations carry a warning for a first offense, up to $150 for a second and $250 for third and subsequent offenses.
Spano pointed out that cell phones are typically used for about 18 months before they are replaced. In the U.S., the use of cell phones increased dramatically from 340,000 subscribers in 1985 to over 128 million in 2001. In 2005, approximately 130 million of these devices, weighing a total of approximately 65,000 tons, are estimated to be retired annually in the U.S.
With the large number of cell phones used today and the quick turnover, Spano stressed the need for a safe disposal system. He noted the county was already encouraging cell phone recycling through the HopeLine program, a joint partnership with Verizon Wireless which benefits domestic violence victims. “Westchester County residents turned in more than 7,000 phones last year at more than 50 cell phone collection centers that we helped set up,” said Spano. “I am confident we can do much more.”
Cell phones and their batteries contain a number of dangerous materials and toxic chemicals including arsenic, antimony, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc. These hazardous components have been associated with cancer and a range of reproductive, neurological and developmental disorders. If disposed in the garbage, the chemicals can leach into soil and groundwater in a landfill or form other highly toxic materials during incineration, thereby polluting the environment.
Before returning old cell phones to cell phone stores, consumers should make sure that the stores are certified by DEF as practicing proper recycling or disposal methods. Similar precautions should also be taken with other phone recycling collection sites. To find out if a collection center is certified or to locate a nearby certified cell phone acceptance center, visit www.westchestergov.com/cellphone or call the county Recycling Office at (914) 813-5420.
In Croton-on-Hudson, go to:Stanley Kellerhouse Municipal Bldg