This year, the number of cellphones in use will likely exceed the number of people on Earth, which is ... weird, right? Are there mole people with cell reception? Regardless, this means that pretty soon there will be more discarded cellphones than there are people on this planet -- and guess where most of them will go. Now, if it were just a question of having to wade through a sea of discarded Motorola Razrs to get to work, that would be one thing, but the physical size of these gadgets is dwarfed by the density of the harmful crap they contain. Contrary to popular belief, these magical little boxes don't actually run on fairy dust; a toxic metal cocktail fuels all that Snapchatting and Instagramming. And when old electronics aren't properly recycled, they tend to leak those hazardous guts into our soil and water. In China, improper disposal of handheld electronics has already tainted countless tons of rice with cadmium, chronic exposure to which causes kidney, liver, and lung failure. And cancer. And osteoporosis. The list goes on and on, and sadly not one item on it is a superpower.
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Unless you count moving at super-speed toward your own mortality.
The impact of trashing a device doesn't stop at pollution, because as soon as we commit those scarce metals to the landfill, more will have to be mined in order to make new iPhones -- and the mining process for one of the rarest elements found in almost every electronic device has created a real-life sequel to Blood Diamond. Coltan extraction has destroyed large tracts of Congo's rain forests and fueled rebel groups, killing millions of Congolese in the process. And thanks to the ad hoc nature of coltan mining, it's hard as hell to determine where exactly the stuff is coming from.
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Despite what the cellphone rep may tell you, the answer is not "from a child's imagination."