Why one company says recycling your cellphone can reduce pollution in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When things like cellphones and computers end up in landfills, the metals used to make them generate pollution over time, according to a University of Washington study.

(KTUU)

Scientists say this discarding of old technology, otherwise known as electronic waste or e-waste, into landfills is a growing source of pollution around the world. Companies are springing up to provide everyday consumers with convenient ways to recycle their old technology.

EcoATM Gazelle, a California-based company, has developed kiosks for people to discard their old cellphones. These kiosks pay for newer phones, ones that can be re-used or re-purposed, or simply take a really old phone off your hands to be stripped apart and recycled.

Since May, Anchorage residents have had access to these kiosks at five different locations across the city. EcoATM spokesperson Chase Freeman says one nice aspect of this technology is the convenience.

"They're located in places where consumers already shop, so you're not having to go out of your way to find these," Freeman said. "It makes it easy for consumers to work it into their weekly schedules."

Even more important than convenience, Freeman says, is keeping the byproducts of cellphones from breaking down in city landfills.

"Harmful materials such as lead, arsenic, mercury -- those are all things that are hazardous to our health," he said. "Whenever those things are leaching into the environment, or just being thrown into the trash without thinking about it, that in turn is harmful to our health."

Freeman says ecoATM was founded in 2008, has kiosks in 48 states, and as of June 2019 has diverted over 21 million cellphones from ending up in landfills. According to their research, keeping 21 million cellphones out of landfills equates to removing emissions from 3,192 cars on the road.

Linda Kellen has lived in Anchorage for 35 years. She wasn't aware the kiosks were an option, but says she will likely start putting them to use.

"I have an iPhone 6 right now, because I keep them forever until they die," Kellen said. "I know right now that will be worth about $5, so it will be nice to have a place to go and turn that right in, whenever I decide to get a new one."

Kellen hopes more technology like the ecoATM kiosk will become available to Anchorage residents in the near future.

"People throw things away that they don't have a way to discard without paying a lot of money at the dump," Kellen said.

EcoATM kiosks are located at Fred Meyer stores on Debarr Rd., Abbott Rd., Dimond Blvd., and Northern Lights Blvd. There's also a kiosk at Walmart in midtown.

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