TOPEKA – The Topeka Zoo is partnering with ECO-CELL, a cell phone recycling company, to help raise awareness of the importance of recycling electronics. That includes the efforts these products have on humans and endangered species.
Currently, there are over 260,000 cell phone users (85% of the population) in the U.S. alone with approximately 100 million currently in retirement. It has been estimated that only 10% of unwanted cell phones are recycled each year. Due to their small size and rapid replacement cycle, cell phones are more likely to end up in the waste stream and contribute a growing portion of the toxic materials in landfills.
An ore called Coltan (columbite-tantalite) is a source of the element tantalum, which is an essential coating for components of cell phones. This ore is often found in the Congo in the middle of endangered gorilla and elephant habitats. Rebel bands mining this ore are killing these animals for food and sport. The U.N. has reported that in the past five years, the eastern lowland gorilla population in the Congo has declined 90%. Reducing the demand for Coltan will help save these animals and their habitat.
“It is important that we do our part to help preserve important animal habitats”, states Brendan Wiley, Topeka Zoo Director. “By conserving resources and recycling the precious metals and other materials in cell phones not only are we helping these endangered species, but we are also helping prevent air pollution, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions”.
According to the EPA, if all of the 100 million cell phones ready for end-of-life management in the U.S. are recycled, enough energy would be saved to power more than 18,500 U.S. households with electricity for one year.
The Topeka Zoo encourages the community to recycle their cell phones and help save endangered species. To promote awareness of this campaign, guests turning in a cell phone to recycle will receive a $1 off their admission to the zoo during the month of November.
A cell phone collection box has been set up at the Zoo. Zoo guests can drop their old cell phones off in the Leopard Spot Gift Shop during normal business hours. Funds raised from the recycled cell phones will go towards the zoo's conservation efforts.