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If you were going to make one change this month, what would it be? We have a suggestion! Keep your existing cell phone longer and then recycle it when you replace it.

Worldwide there are 5 billion cell phones in use, about 1 billion of which are "smartphones", which provide calling, texting, wireless Internet, and other services. In the U.S., there are about 270 million cell phones in use. Each year, about 130 million cell phones are discarded nationwide. Unfortunately, only about 10 percent of those cell phones are recycled.

Many consumers use their cell phones for only about 18 months. In most cases, these 18-month-old phones are still in good working order. A study published in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment reported that keeping a phone in use for four years could reduce the environmental impact of that phone by 40 percent, conserving natural resources, saving energy, and reducing pollution.

Recycled cell phones are either refurbished or remanufactured. Refurbished phones are cleaned, checked, and repaired, if needed, and then used in the U.S. or in countries with rapidly growing demand for cell phones, such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and several nations in Africa. Unusable cell phones are disassembled and the parts are recycled into new phones or other electronics. One ton of mobile phones (about 6,000 phones) contains about $15,000 in precious metals, which are used in the manufacture of new phones.

Next time you upgrade, ask your wireless provider about take-back programs. Some wireless providers will even offer you a discount on your new phone based on the trade-in value of your old phone. Many organizations accept cell phones to help raise funds for youth, domestic violence prevention and assistance, and other programs. You can also recycle phones with other electronics. If you aren't sure how or where, click here for information on recycling in Wake County.

Remember to cancel your wireless service on any phone that you will no longer be using and to remove personal data before recycling the phone.

*article reprinted from Recycling Matters! from the City of Raleigh