February 2, 2008 —
The business of cell phone charity—turning in used cell phones to recycling companies for a per unit price used for fundraising—is coming under scrutiny as the business is booming. Ecophones, based in Dallas, has already helped 20,000 organizations across the country. The recycling companies claim to keep the phones out of landfills—but many resell them to middlemen or export them overseas where their hazardous waste components are dangerous to foreign workers and environments.
With cell phones’ average life span of 18 months the number of cell phones being tossed is enormous—and growing. The EPA estimates that 98 million cell phones were consigned to the trash or disuse in 2005. Part of the problem is that consumers love to get the latest thing while their current cell phone is perfectly good. In 2005, less than 20% of the discarded cell phones were recycled. The rest went to landfills, releasing toxic chemicals and metals.
The for-profit phone recycling companies that shepherd non-profit organizations into fund-raising programs include: EcoPhones, Phoneraiser, FundingFactory, CollectiveGood, Think Recycle, ReCellular, Cellular Funds and Project KOPEG (Keep Our Planet Earth Green). There are many more. Ask your charity if they know how the phone recyling company they are working with is actually recycling the phones. What are the options for your cell phone? Keep your current one or return it to the manufacturer Take it to a recycling center. Or give it to a charity for a fundraiser, though it may end up over in China causing grief for other workers and their environment.