Your smartphone’s secret afterlife (Smartphones Unlocked)

A Green Citizen technician swaps out a broken iPhone screen.

(Credit: CNET/CBS Interactive)

A blue mat, a fine-tipped screwdriver, and a dozen itty bitty screws. This is Titus Green’s workspace, set within a warehouse that processes 2 million pounds of unwanted electronic waste each year.

Green, 22, and his team at San Francisco Bay Area e-waste collection center Green Citizen, refurbish 30 cell phones a day to put back into customers’ hands.

If you don’t chuck your electronics down the trash chute (and please don’t,) the most likely cycle is that the phone will be refurbished and resold, one way or another.

Of the appliances that come through Green Citizen’s doors — computers, old phones, even an ancient sewing machine — 21 percent will get a second chance at life. The remaining 79 percent of unwanted cables, motherboards, and TVs are too ancient or too broken for anything beyond tossing individual parts into scrap bins.

Four ways to ditch your old electronics

From there, towering bins containing circuit boards here and batteries there ship out to certified partners that either turn the parts into some other electronic, or smelt metals and other materials out of phones — like copper or silver, for instance. In addition, certified e-waste recycling centers deal with noxious chemi… [Read more]

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