EPA, e-Waste & the Big Easy


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On Tuesday Jan 8, NPR aired a brief segment announcing the EPA's launch of a new program to encourage cell phone recycling as part of a larger initiative, Plug-In to eCycling, to help consumers decrease and manage the ever-growing amount of used, electronic waste being generated across the country. Top cell phone and electronics companies such as AT&T Wireless, Best Buy, Motorola and Nokia have partnered with the EPA to make recycling cell phones as simple as possible.

The EPA estimates that, because many consumers are unaware of how or where to recycle used cell phones, more than 100 to 130 million old, unwanted cell phones are currently laying around collecting dust in average American homes nationwide.What most people don't know is that cell phones are 100 % recyclable — the plastic and metals can be reused, as well as battery chemicals, lcd screens and key pads.

The EPA estimates that recycling these 100 million cell phones would save enough energy to power nearly 200,000 U.S. households for a year. If the phones were actually reused, the impact is even more significant, the equivalent of a whopping 370,000 U.S. homes each year.

To that end, many cell phone companies collect old phones at retail locations or customers can mail them in, NPR notes. And, many companies will donate the proceeds to charities. The NPR story also points out that cell phone recycling is a rare situation in which everybody wins. It's a win for the environment, it's a win for the charities supported by the proceeds, and it's a win for those people around the world who would like access to cellular technology but can't afford the cost of a new phone.

Locally, Audubon Zoo is one charity benefitting from the recycling of old cell phones. They've partnered with a Kentucky-based e-waste recycler, ECO-CELL, to collect and recycle used cell phones in several collection boxes at the zoo. In exchange, the proceeds from recycling old phones go directly to the American Association of Zookeepers chapter here at the Audubon Zoo for training, education and conservation programs.

The cell phones are shipped to ECO-CELL via a prepaid shipping label and then Audubon receives a check based on the number and type/quality of the phones sent in. The most recent shipment of 15 cell phones (the zoo's average collection per month) yielded a $500 check. If you haven't the time to tour the zoo, cell phones can still be collected at the membership window at no cost to the donator.


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