Gorillas, Your Cell Phone, and You

Gorilla Baby and Mom

Most people know and are active at recycling products such as soda cans, plastic bottles and containers, and paper, but many don’t realize that their old phone sitting in their dresser, and that charging cable that doesn’t quite work anymore can actually help make a difference for wildlife.

Technology is all around us and has become, for most, an essential part of our everyday lives. From our cell phones, to our kids' tablets, to gaming systems, and MP3 players, electronics are the top consumer product. What is not talked about often is the fact that electronics have a huge impact on the planet. To produce a single smartphone, it requires 13 tons of water and 18M2 of land, along with dozens of metal, minerals, and compounds.

One of those minerals is coltan, and 80% of the world's coltan is found in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Coltan mining is taking over national parks and clearing out large chunks of the area's lush forests, forests where animals such as the critically endangered gorillas and chimpanzees call home. Gorillas are essential and instrumental to a healthy rainforest, and a healthy rainforest is instrumental to a healthy world.

The light in this dark situation, is that every single person has the opportunity to make a difference. It is estimated that 1.5 billion smartphones are sold worldwide annually, with less than 20 percent of unwanted cell phones being recycled each year, according to the EPA. In the US alone there are more than half a billion cell phones ready for recycling, and more than 11 million phones are added to that total each month. Recycling old mobile phones helps reduce the demand for coltan and protects gorilla habitat in Africa.

ECO-CELL is a family owned business that was started in 2003 out of Louisville Kentucky. They take in unwanted electronics, reuse and refurbish them, or recycle them if the device has been determined to be “end of life.” By refurbishing phones for people to use, it helps decrease the demand on new phones being made, and therefore reducing coltan needed. ECO-CELL is also a no landfill company and only works with R2 certified or better reclamation companies. Organizations and zoos all over the United Stat including the Jane Goodall Institute, Cincinnati Zoo, Audubon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, and many more have joined in and created drop off locations making it easy and accessible for anyone to participate.

YOU CAN DO IT. Consider choosing to not upgrade the next time a new phone comes out, and letting your devices last a lot longer. If you have older electronics you don’t use anymore, recycle them through ECO-CELL. Items they will take include: cell phones, Smartphones, ipods, ipads, tablets, adapters, chargers, MP3 players, handheld gaming systems and the accessories that come with them. Find a drop off location near you and join the 2020 mobile phone recycling challenge. “Gorillas on the Line… Answer the Call.”



- “Cell Phone Recycling: Louisville: ECO-CELL.” Ecocell, www.eco-cell.com/.
- Nield, David. “Our Smartphone Addiction Is Costing the Earth.” TechRadar, TechRadar, 4 Aug. 2015, www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/our-smartphone-addiction-is-costing-the-earth-1299378.
- Tomorrow, Blue & Green. “Report: Single Smartphone Requires 13 Tonnes of Water to Produce.” Blue and Green Tomorrow, 7 May 2019, blueandgreentomorrow.com/environment/report-single-smartphone-requires-13-tonnes-of-water-to-produce/.

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