Recycle Your Cell Phone to Support a Political Candidate

With the Nov. 2 midterm elections only days away, there’s never been a better time to get rid of old phones and help out your favorite candidate, party or organization in the process. Leading cell phone recycler ReCellular has launched its own campaign to recycle phones for political change.

Approved by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), candidates and other political groups can allow consumers to designate the proceeds from their recycled trade-in to be donated to their favorite candidate or cause. Photo: Flickr/JoshuaDavisPhotography

The Federal Elections Commission has allowed ReCelluar to donate the value of a used phone to the political campaign, party or organization of the donor’s choice.

“A huge number of people aren’t recycling,” said ReCellular’s Vice President of Marketing, Mike Newman. “We have to find the thing that’s going to motivate them to take that action. And politics is something that a lot of people are very passionate about.”

Proceeds can range from $5 to $400 per phone, depending on its age, make and condition. All registered federal candidates, political parties, 501(c)(4) nonprofit lobbying organizations and nonconnected political committees can sign up to participate, the FEC ruling held, as long as they pay a modest $10 listing fee.

Although the program is in its infancy, feedback from both donors and political groups has been positive, according to Newman. Political fundraisers are “really excited to have a new way to ask for help.” He noted that donating the proceeds from used phones allows people to do their part for the causes they believe in, no matter what their budget

“It’s a fabulous way for us to make sure that cell phones are recycled,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “It helps us do good work and fulfill our mission while allowing consumers to support their cause or campaign without having to cut into their budgets.”

While a $5 donation from an outdated phone may not sound like much, it can make a big difference. During Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign, he raised $28 million in January through online donations – 90 percent of which came from donations of $100 or less and 40 percent from donors who gave $25 or less, according to The New York Times.

As well as political donations, parties can sign up to donate the full value of their phones to other causes like March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Red Cross’ earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. ReCellular facilitated $3 million in charitable donations last year, which included more than $20,000 for Haiti, Newman said.

A staggering number of cell phones go unrecycled. In the United States alone, 2.23 million tons of TVs, cell phones and computer products become eligible for end-of-life processing each year, and 82 percent of that waste ends up in landfills, according to the U.S. EPA.

Of all electronics, cell phones have one of the lowest recycling rates at only 10 percent. But most used phones are far from useless. Newer models can be refurbished and resold, and older models can be recycled for their plastic and precious metals. As ReCellular’s website points out, in 2009 alone, the company reclaimed enough gold from cell phones to create 1,535 wedding bands.

Interested participants can find out the value of their phones through ReCellular’s sales portal, and follow directions for mailing in phones and donating the proceeds. Shipping to ReCellular’s Michigan processing plant is free, and the company will erase your phone’s data, protecting your identity and contacts.

Those who donate to political causes now will receive a check from ReCellular in the mail that they can then send in to a campaign or activist group. Soon, you’ll be able to transfer funds directly online, a program already in place for donations to charitable foundations.

ReCellular accepts all kinds of phones for processing, including broken phones and phones without batteries. The company encourages clients to send in any chargers or connecting cables along with their phones, but welcomes phones without accessories as well.

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