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Calif. passes cell phone recycling bill

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes recycling of discarded mobile phones mandatory for handset makers.

A new California law mandates the recycling of old cell phones at no cost to the consumer.

The legislation, signed into law this week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, requires companies that sell mobile phones to recycle returned handsets.

State assembly member Fran Pavley, who proposed the new law, said existing recycling programs run by cell phone service providers take care of only about 5 percent of obsolete phones.

About 19 million people in the state use cell phones, which have an average life span of 18 months. Millions of discarded phones end up in landfills, posing a threat to soil and groundwater.

"Most consumers are unaware that cell phones contain hazardous materials, or that old phones can be recycled. This measure will help ensure that the more than 25,000 toxic cell phones that are discarded every day in California are recycled," Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, said in a statement. "Cell phone retailers are profiting from the rapid turnover of phones. It's appropriate that these retailers--and not taxpayers--bear responsibility for the financial and environmental costs of proper management of these devices."

Electronic waste has become a major environmental hazard, forcing technology companies to offer consumers recycling deals. However, the disposal of outdated equipment can be a costly proposition for companies.