Recycling cell phones helps save Gorillas!



ECO-CELL Recycling Questions & Answers

What is the ECO-CELL recycling program?

The ECO-CELL recycling program helps reduce the demand for coltan, an ore used to extend battery life in phones and other handheld devices. Coltan mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo destroy forest habitat critical to endangered species, including the western lowland gorilla.

What can I recycle through ECO-CELL?

Cell phones, smartphones, iPods, iPads, tablets, adapters, chargers, MP3 players, handheld gaming systems and the accessories that come with them.

How does it help?

Handheld electronics contain coltan, a material found in great quantities in the Congo, home to critically endangered gorillas. Coltan miners often kill gorillas to have easy access to their habitat, and frequently employ children to do the mining. The United Nations has reported the eastern lowland gorilla population in eight national parks in the Congo has declined by 90% over the past five years. By recycling your handheld electronics and reusing coltan, you’re reducing the demand for newly-mined coltan, saving gorillas and stopping human rights abuses in conflict areas.

How am I investing in conservation?

You’re about to make a double impact! Woodland Park Zoo sends handheld electronics to ECO-CELL, a family-run company in Louisville, Kentucky, to be refurbished or recycled. ECO-CELL then pays between $0.25 and $15 for each electronic device. By recycling through this program, you are: 1) reducing the demand for mining virgin materials and, 2) every dollar received from ECO-CELL goes directly to gorilla conservation through the Mondika Gorilla Project or Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Is it tax deductible?

Yes. A donation made by a business or individual directly to the zoo is considered tax deductible. As the zoo is unable to provide tax advice, each business is asked to determine the value of their own donation.
The tax letter you receive will state “Thank you for the donation of ## cell phones.” It will be up to you as the business and the IRS to determine how much your donation is worth. 

Exception: If an employee donates a handheld electronic to you (the business), and your business makes the donation to the zoo, it is not tax deductible for the original employee because the donation was not made directly to a non-profit.

How can we scale this for my business?

If you’re an individual, you can drop off your electronic devices at any of the three donation bins at Woodland Park Zoo. There is one bin located outside of each of the two entrances and one bin located near the gorilla habitat inside the zoo.

If you’re a small business, we can arrange to have the items picked up on a regular basis (likely quarterly depending on the size of the business and the number of items collected) and brought to the zoo to include in the overall zoo shipment to ECO-CELL. You can contribute your personal electronics or place bins for collection from customers.

If you’re a large business, we can make arrangements for you to send your handheld electronics directly to ECO-CELL on Woodland Park Zoo’s behalf. Shipping is paid for by ECO-CELL and the rebate would come directly to the zoo for gorilla conservation.  Please consider recycling company-issued employee cell phones when they are removed from circulation.

What do I need to consider before donating?

There are two things to do before donating your handheld electronics, especially cell phones. First, remove any SIM or SD cards. Second, wipe the phone clean. ECO-CELL does not clear data from the phones it receives.

If you’re collecting handheld electronics to donate to the zoo, or send to ECO-CELL on our behalf, you’ll want to place your collection bins in a secure place and monitoring them to prevent theft.

Can I get more if I resell or trade in my phone? 

Yes. But in addition to protecting gorillas and their habitats, here are a few reasons your recycled phone can have a greater impact than the trade-in value:

  • Handheld electronics include a variety of precious metals, copper and plastics. Recycling not only conserves these materials, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions that occur during manufacturing and while extracting and processing virgin materials.
  • Recycling just one cell phone saves enough energy to power a laptop for 44 hours.
  • If we recycled all 130 million cell phones that are tossed away annually in the US, we could save enough energy to power more than 24,000 homes for a year.
  • For every one million cell phones recycled, the following can be recovered:
    • 75 pounds of gold
    • 772 pounds of silver
    • 33 pounds of palladium
    • 35,274 pounds of copper
    • Tin, zinc and platinum can also be reused.
  • Cell phones and other electronic devices also contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and brominated flame retardants. If tossed in landfills, these materials can contaminate air, soil and groundwater.

Our Mission

Woodland Park Zoo saves wildlife and inspires everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives.

Land Acknowledgment

Woodland Park Zoo recognizes that these are the lands of the Tribal signatories of the Treaty of Point Elliott. We acknowledge their stewardship of this place continues to this day and that it is our responsibility to join them to restore the relationship with the living world around us.

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