WISE Framework Connections
WISE Activism Ideas
Cell Phones Lesson Plan download:

Cell Phones- A New Plan Needed?
Cell phones are almost as common today as TV sets in homes. It is estimated that there are 1.6 billion cell phone subscribers worldwide and this could increase to 2 billion by 2006 (www. Cell phones have become a commodity that is undergoing a rapid evolution. Technology continues to improve to make cell phones smaller, more efficient, and equipped with countless ‘bells and whistles’ including games, cameras, email access, browser capability. The latest ‘gimmick’ in wireless technology is using cell phones to pay for goods and services simply by passing the phone over a scanner that will capture a data-encrypted stream from your phone for authorization. In fact, Nokia has just joined with Visa to embed radio-frequency ID chips in cell phones for this purpose. It also won’t be long before 3 gigabyte cell phones double as MP3 players (New Scientist). Based on industry research, cell phone users currently upgrade their phones on average every two years and as technology options continue to improve, users are trading in older models even more quickly. Because cell phones are so cheap to produce, and technology is changing so rapidly, it is predicted that new phones will soon have an obsolescence of a year or less. In fact, some companies have been marketing "disposable" phones since 2003. It is estimated that cell phones in the US alone will be thrown away at a rate of 130 million per year starting in 2005 and this equates to 65,000 tonnes of waste containing toxic metals ( Obviously, the implications of such wide spread use should be a serious concern but very little is being done to curb this trend.

The outlook on the human health and environmental impact of cell phones is not good. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US classifies cell phones as hazardous waste because they contain persistent toxic metals that accumulate in the environment such as mercury, cadmium, lead, gallium, arsenic, antimony, beryllium, copper, nickel and zinc. When discarded phones are sent to an incinerator or a landfill site these toxic metals (65,000 tonnes of them in 2005!) decompose over time and can leach into soil and ground water. This can have a significant environmental impact – streams, lakes and rivers could become contaminated, wildlife could suffer, drinking water could be impacted, and human health concerns could arise - some toxins have also been linked to cancer and neurological disorders. However, the issues associated with cell phones don’t stop at pollution from toxic waste. For instance, there is considerable environmental damage and energy consumption required to mine these metallic ores, radio-frequency waves are under suspicion for health impacts, and if that isn’t enough, cell phones have even been at the center of a devastating civil war.

Connections to the WISE Framework
WISE Issue
Resources/Factors in decision making
Impact of cell phone refuse on the environment
STSE Expertise

Environmental and health impacts associated with the production, use and disposal of electronic devices.

Products Expertise

Extraction, purification, and refining of minerals for use in technological devices

Physical characteristics of minerals and alloys.
Activism Expertise

Assessing the benefits and hazards of a specific technology

Developing and carrying out an action plan
NoST Expertise

Opportunities to explore:
the economic and cultural factors that can influence science and technology
Skills Expertise

Expertise for:
Questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, developing prudent conclusions
Project(s) Findings

Results and conclusions from correlational studies on community cell phone use and disposal practices

WISE Activism Ideas
Activism Ideas

Community campaign e.g., old cell phone collection drive followed by proper disposal.

Personal lifestyle change e.g. avoiding use of cell phones; dispose of old cell phones only when malfunctioning; dispose of broken cell phones through organized cell phone disposal program.

References - recycling cell phones - recycling cell phones - life cycle of cell phone - resources - health issues associated with cell phones - MP3 and VISA,39020354,39185441,00.htm,39020360,39179947,00.htm - Nokia –projection on world users - human development reports UN - OECD PDF - cell phone waste