Cell phone recycling is latest buzz


Published: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2008 at 6:33 p.m.

Leading cell phone retailers, manufacturers and service providers have recently teamed up with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to encourage consumers to recycle their old phones and accessories.

Sprint, AT&T, Best Buy, LG Electronics, Motorola, Nokia, Office Depot, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Staples and T-Mobile are partners in the campaign.

All have pledged to increase outreach about existing recycling programs, educate the public about the benefits of recycling cell phones (including how and where to recycle) and work with communities to hold collection drives and events.

Fewer than 20 percent of cell phones are recycled each year, according to the EPA Web site. The goal of the campaign is to spread awareness about the program since most people don't know where or how to recycle their old phones.

According to the EPA Web site, recycling cell phones saves valuable material from entering landfills and incinerators and conserves natural resources. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Just a million recycled cell phones would reduce emissions equal to taking 1,368 cars off of the road for a year.

For its part, Sprint implemented Sprint Project Connect to help consumers properly dispose of unwanted or broken wireless phones, said Nanci Schwartz, Corporate Communications Manager of Sprint.

"The devices do have components that could be toxic to the environment if they end up in our landfills. By recycling the phones, Sprint and the consumers who participate are helping to protect the environment while supporting worthy organizations," Schwartz said in an e-mail interview.

Sprint supplies a self-mailer envelope in the box with all new phones, which allows a customer to properly dispose of the old one, she said. All of the net proceeds from the project benefit Sprint's 4NetSafety program, a partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, NEA and Health and Information Network to keep kids safe online.

Sprint also offers a Buyback Program for current or former customers, which allows them to receive a credit on their account based on the return of an eligible handset and battery.

T-Mobile gives customers white plastic bags so they can send phones and accessories in at their convenience.

"A lot of people want to take the phones home to give them to their kids, or take pictures and data off," said Matthew Thompson, retail store manager of the T-Mobile store in Gainesville. "They enjoy the ability to recycle the phones themselves because they can put the address and postage stamp on the bag and send it off at their leisure."

According to T-Mobile's Web site, 100 percent of net proceeds from recycling benefit the efforts of T-Mobile Huddle Up, its charitable program which works to provide safe after-school programs in high-need, urban communities.

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