If you’re like most Americans, you have an old phone laying around in a drawer somewhere. Many upgrade to the “newest model” every two years. Unfortunately, this leads to an incredible amount of waste. According to Planet Green Recycle, up to 70% of cell phones could be reused, but very few are ever recycled. Additionally, recycling just 42 cell phones would save enough energy to power your home for one full year, and that’s not even counting the resources it took to make it!
In fact, re-using your cellphone is one of the most immediate ways you can help prevent e-waste from being introduced into the world. Creating new electronics uses a massive amount of virgin materials and contributes to carbon emissions, and if we recycled mobile phones, we’d be able to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 90%! It can also help keep toxic substances like arsenic, cadmium, lithium, lead, zinc and mercury out of the environment.
So how can you recycle your old smartphone? One of the easiest ways is to convert your phone into a dash cam. Dash cams, being electronics, pose the same problems as cell phones for the environment, and because they do the same things, you may as well make sure you’re not helping drive more demand for the electronics industry. Both your old cell phone and a dash cam have a camera and can record video, so why not use what you have?
What is a Dash Cam, and Why Should You Use Your Phone as One?
A dash cam is a small camera that attaches to the windshield or dashboard of your car. As you drive, the dash cam constantly records what’s happening in your line of vision. So why would you need a dash cam? You can later view the footage—You may get a recording of a massive meteor, or you might have some invaluable footage for a future insurance claim.
If you’re involved in a car accident and don’t have a dash cam, it’ll be challenging to prove that you weren’t at fault for the accident. Dash cams provide invaluable evidence after a vehicular incident. For example, if a driver dangerously merged onto the highway and forced you to rear-end him or her, it’ll be nearly impossible to blame him without footage showing his reckless driving. If you’re found “at fault” for an auto accident, your insurance rates will go through the roof.
A dash cam also eliminates any of the “he said, she said” that comes with interviewing witnesses at the scene of a crash. If you recorded what really happened, there’s no way the other driver can claim otherwise.
Getting Started: What You’ll Need
Setting up a dash cam for your car is actually much simpler than you may believe. You will not need any kind of cellular plan or internet connection with your old phone to convert it to a dash cam. Some equipment you will need does include:
• An old smartphone
• A dash cam app (you can get free or paid versions, but they’re available for either Android or iPhone users)
• A car mount for your phone. You might have one already, or you can buy one at nearly any electronics store or online, but the thrifty make their own!
• A charger if your phone’s battery life is less than stellar
Once you use WiFi to get your phone online, you can download a dash cam app of your liking. Be sure to read reviews—Some free apps are excellent, but it may be worthwhile to pay a little extra, especially if you’re worried about your insurance premiums rising.
With the app installed, attach it to your front windshield. You’ll want to have the camera higher than usual to get the best view of the road. A good spot is directly behind your rearview mirror.
When you’re ready to go, hit record! It’s a good idea to take a few test drives to ensure the position of the camera allows you to record your entire field of vision, but overall the process is very simple and can be done without any heavy equipment or technical know-how.
Caveats to Using a Phone Dash Cam
Using a cell phone as a dash cam isn’t perfect. Here are a couple of potholes you might run into when recycling your old phone:
• You’ll likely need to turn your dash cam app on every time you get into your car. Most stand-alone dash cameras start automatically as soon as you being driving.
• If your old phone has a bad battery life (chances are good here), you’ll need to keep it charged at all times.
• It’s always possible that someone could try to break into your car to steal the old phone, though you can just unmount the phone itself.
Overall, the financial and environmental benefits of recycling an old cell phone to use as a dash cam on your car or bike greatly outweigh any problems you may run into while using one. If you have a phone lying around, try booting it up and downloading a dash cam app! It may save you thousands in insurance premiums someday, but more importantly, it’s taking something that might just sit in a drawer, or worse, a landfill, and turning it into a valuable piece of equipment.