Global e-waste dumping: Shipping Unwanted Electronics to the Developing World

boy checking laptop on electronics waste

Not all electronics recycling companies in the US and Europe follow stringent environmental practices like GreenCitizen. There are electronics recycling companies that engage in global dumping and instead of recycling electronics responsibly, ship e-waste to foreign dumps in the developing world. It is illegal for companies in the EU to export e-waste but not in the US. Many countries receive this e-waste but there are some places that have become infamous for it and developed large informal recycling operations.

Guiyu, China

Famously exposed to Western audiences back in 2002 by the Basel Action Network (BAN), Guiyu is a town in the Chaoyang district of Guangdong province. The town is the world’s largest e-waste dump. The informal recycling practices in the town have heavily polluted the soil, water and bodies of the residents. Children have notoriously high levels of lead in their bloodstreams, tens of times the WHO safe limit.

The Guiyu e-waste dump

Lagos, Nigeria

Several hundred thousand tons of e-waste flow into Nigeria’s largest port city of Lagos every year. Subsequent to the exposition of Guiyu to Western audiences, in 2005, BAN shed light on electronics recycling companies shipping e-waste to Nigeria under the guise of reuse. Most of the items coming into port were unusable and ended up dumped around Lagos neighborhoods.

Agogbloshie, Ghana

Also situated in West Africa and located on the outskirts of the Ghanaian Capital, Accra, e-waste dumping at this site was the subject of new articles by major news outlets in the last year. Arguably overtaking Guiyu as the world’s biggest e-waste dumpsite, Agogbloshie’s local environment has been trashed, putting tens of thousands of peoples health at risk.

Responsible electronics recycling

Companies like GreenCitizen refuse to engage in the shipment of e-waste overseas until such a time as electronics recycling operations in those countries meet western environmental standards. GreenCitizen is attempting to shift the paradigm and build a model, sustainable, local electronics recycling ecosystem. Please do your part to make sure your  e-waste is recycled locally and responsibly.


My Plastic-Free Life

live plastic free life


Recently, GreenCitizen had the honor of giving Beth Terry, of the “My Plastic-Free Life” fame, a tour of our Burlingame headquarters. James Kao, our CEO, and Terry shared their experiences in attempting to spread awareness about the need to both reduce consumption and change the way we dispose of our unwanted possessions.

Terry began her journey as an environmental advocate in 2007 after reading an article detailing the skeleton of a dead bird, its stomach filled with plastic. She committed herself to finding ways around the excessive use of plastic and sharing her ideas through her blog and recently published book Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.  Though Terry notes that many people cite recycling as the first step to improving waste management, she cites another precursor step as much more crucial: using less. Terry works three days a week as an accountant. It’s simple: she doesn’t buy that much stuff, so she doesn’t need to work that many hours. “More doesn’t make you happy” is one of her mantras.

Terry has all but eliminated single-use plastic from her life: refusing to use plastic bottles and bags, and urges others to do the same. She is wary of Tupperware and other plastic encasing used for food, noting her concern for the potential of leaked chemicals into food. Her suggestions span consumer habits as well. She frowns upon the constant upgrading of technology that so quickly renders electronics obsolete. Buying refurbished electronics extends the life cycle of a usable product, and lessens the demand for constant manufacturing of new electronics. She advocates for consumer responsibility in researching which companies use the least toxic materials, and “voting with their dollars.” You can follow Beth on Twitter: @PlasticfreeBeth and email her at

Cell Phone Recycling: What to Do with Your Old Phones

GreenCitizen Cell Phone recycling

GreenCitizen Cell Phone recycling

Updated September 2018

Did you know that 95% of Americans own a cellphone? As more and more upgrades appear on the market, 75% of people leave their old cell phones sitting around the house. What can we do with this unnecessary build up of mobile phones? Cell phone recycling!

Unfortunately, for being such a popular technology, those old Nokia’s, Razr’s, Samsung Galaxy’s and iPhone’s have an extremely low recycling rate – a shameful 20% in the US. As faster, swankier, and more powerful cell phones emerge, the millions we already have quickly become obsolete and get dumped.

But, there ARE many ways we can prevent old, less swanky phones from ending up in a landfill (wasting resources and damaging the environment in the process). GreenCitizen has some solutions for you, whether it is through regular drop-off, reuse, or recycling.

Can Cell Phones be Recycled?

Yes, your old cell phones can be recycled, reused, or refurbished. A fully-functional phone unwanted by you does not belong in the trash, but can be used by someone else. Phones with minor problems are fixable for reuse. Luckily, extra mined resources and labor are not needed to make a brand new phone. For phones that are beyond repair, recycling is the way to go.

Why Do We Need to Recycle Mobile Phones?

Our old phones are in many ways miniature gold mines. They contain rare earth elements and metals like gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, tin, and zinc. Recycling can recover these minerals. For every one million cell phones recycled, we can recover 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium. Metals and rare earth elements especially, are difficult to mine and need a great deal of energy to extract. By recovering them from old phones we save enormous amounts of resources and energy!

How Does Cell Phone Recycling Work?

Here is how GreenCitizen handles cell phone recycling. We will take all your old cell phones for free. Upon receiving phones we refurbish and resell as many of them as we can. And don’t be concerned about all those contacts and late-night texts you have left on your phone. Have no fear…GreenCitizen wipes them clear! We offer a $20 data erasure service that uses the Department of Defense 5220.22-M Data Sanitization software.Person texting on cell phone. Ready for cellphone recycling.

Phones that we cannot fix and resell will be sent to our E-steward and R2 certified recycling vendors. They can magically take the working parts of old phones and combine them with working parts of others to create a perfectly useable cell phone. Or, these vendors can melt down and extract valuable natural resources, thus saving limited metals while protecting the environment. You’d be surprised at how much we can salvage from one cell phone!

Where to Recycle Your Old Mobile Phones

GreenCitizen offers free cell phone recycling in the San Francisco Bay area at our Burlingame EcoCenter. Drop off your devices and we’ll take care of the rest! SF Bay area businesses can also sign up for our convenient business pick-up.

For those outside of San Francisco wondering where to recycle their old cell phones, please visit the Recycling Center Search at

Thank you for doing your part for the environment. If you have any questions about cell phone recycling, please give us a call at (650) 493-8700 or chat with us online!

Peace, Love, and Upcycling: Upcycled Art at GreenCitizen

peace love and upcycling

Upcycled Art

Nikki Contini, a Bay Area artist, is showcasing her collection “Peace, Love, and Upcycling”  which features upcycled art at GreenCitizen’s Berkeley Center. We debuted the collection last Saturday with a launch party. Nikki spoke about the inspiration behind her work; healing and peace in a world of turmoil. In addition to creating art, Nikki also teaches upcycling to children after school in an eco-art class. Some of her students from Vallecito Elementary School attended the party to show off  their own upcycled works. Upcycled Art

Items in the showcase can be purchased in the center and include magnets, mirrors, and various other pieces featuring whimsical motifs.  All of Nikki’s art is composed of salvaged items, found objects, and re-purposed refuse. Nikki also creates fused glass pieces. You can see examples of her work here.

GreenCitizen’s founder, James Kao, also spoke on our company’s initiatives and efforts to recycle the Bay Area’s e-waste locally and responsibly.  He  believes that Nikki’s art aligns with our company’s values to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Nikki ContiIf you’re in the area, please drop by to check out some terrific local art. Feel free to bring any of your old or broken electronics to drop off for recycling while you’re here. Nikki’s collection will be on display until January and open for viewing during GreenCitizen’s regular business hours 10AM-6PM Monday-Saturday. Pieces range from $7-$325.

Recycling Lithium-ion Batteries: How to Dispose Your Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium-Ion Battery
Updated September 2018

Did you know that cell phones, laptops, and power tools contain lithium-ion batteries? With the growth of electronic devices, these rechargeable batteries are now a staple in our society.
Lithium-Ion Battery

Of the many types of rechargeable batteries, lithium-ion batteries are the most popular because they provide more energy than other types of rechargeable batteries. They also hold their charge much better than older battery types, like nickel-metal hydride. Because of their convenience and charging power, it looks like lithium rechargeable batteries are here to stay!

So how are you supposed to dispose lithium-ion batteries once you’re done with them?

Can I Throw Away Lithium-ion Batteries?

While you can throw single use, non-rechargeable batteries in the trash, keep lithium-ion batteries out. These batteries contain toxic materials that are hazardous to our health and the environment if left in a landfill. When you want to dispose your lithium-ion batteries, you need to take them to a trusted recycling center.

Can Lithium-ion Batteries be Recycled?

Yes, but not in your regular blue recycling bin. The contents of lithium-ion batteries are less toxic than most other battery types, which makes them easier to recycle. But, lithium is a highly reactive element. These batteries have a flammable electrolyte and pressurized contents that could lead them bursting into flames.

It’s especially risky when lithium-ion batteries end up in the back of a dry recycling truck surrounded by paper and cardboard. Pressure or heat, especially during the summer, could cause them to spark, starting a fire. In fact, lithium-ion batteries are one of the most common fire starters in recycling trucks!

Lithium-ion batteries in laptop, cell phone, and camera

How to Recycle Batteries?

The best way to recycle lithium-ion batteries is to take your old cell phones, tablets, and computers to a recycling center. They’ll know how to recycle batteries of all shapes and sizes while doing what’s right for the environment.

Stop by GreenCitizen’s Burlingame EcoCenter for your electronics recycling in San Francisco. We can recycle all rechargeable battery types for free. For businesses, we offer a hassle-free pickup program for unwanted electronics.

For the rest of the United States, visit Call2Recycle to find battery recycling drop-off centers near you.

If you want more information on lithium-ion battery recycling, give us a call at (650) 493-8700. We thank you for doing your part for the environment!