By 2005, 130 million cell phones will be thrown out each year, according to a new study funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Counting the phones, batteries and chargers, that comes to 65,000 tons a year, most of which will end up in landfills or being incinerated. And that has environmentalists freaked. “This is becoming a very serious problem, because the amount of cell phone waste is growing tremendously,” said Eric Most, a director at Inform, the group which issued the report. “These chemicals accumulate and persist in the environment. They get in the plants, soil, water, and then move up the stream to humans.” One approach to countering the increase that seems to have general support is a “take-back” program, in which phone manufacturers must agree to take-back old phones when consumers upgrade. Another plan sure to be DOA: Limiting waste by standardizing design elements so consumers have fewer reasons to buy new phones. “If we had had a government standard in the beginning,” one industry rep told the New York Times, “we’d still all be speaking on analog phones. And that means no e-mail, no text messaging, no Caller ID. Competition equals innovation in this case.”
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