Natural history museum exhibit puts cellphone recycling education on display

August 1, 2023, Gage Edwards, June 29, 2023

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is packed full of interesting exhibits detailing subjects like evolution and geology. Now cellphones, their endless connectivity, and their environmental impact are on full display.

Last week, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History opened their latest exhibit, Cellphones: Unseen Connections. The exhibit takes on the role of educating museumgoers on the history of our handheld devices, the materials that go into cellphones, and what the final stages of our phone’s lives have on our environment.

Cellphones are the fastest growing technology in human existence. With new innovations being developed constantly, consumers are upgrading and disposing of their devices at an alarming rate. Most people don’t know what to do with their phones once they’ve upgraded to a new one or their old phone is broken. But fortunately, the Museum’s Cellphone exhibit helps interested parties discover ways of properly disposing of their devices and the consequences of throwing them in the trash.

A big wall of the exhibit is dedicated to proper cellphone disposal and “The How of Recycling.” The purpose of this area is to show attendees what happens to their phones once they’re put into our recycling facilities, with details on the effects of proper dismantling, shredding, and smelting.

Of course, these methods come with their own issues and hazards as many cellphone makers create phones to discourage dismantling and encourage consumers to buy new devices, rather than repair them to extend the life of the device, promoting a circular economy. The exhibit notes that in 2021, the Fairphone 3, Teracube 2e, Google Pixel 5, and Moto E6 were praised for their use of sustainable and recycled materials and their repairability.

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