Cincinnati is not alone in its efforts. Other city zoos, such as those in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Louisville, Phoenix and New York, have launched similar programs. They typically partner with Eco-Cell, an electronics recycling company based in Louisville, Ky., that provides programs to help zoos and other organizations launch recycling drives. Eco-Cell reports that it has partnerships with more than 110 zoos. It recently announced that the Cincinnati Zoo was the No. 1 zoo for cellphone collection in 2013, and Hoeweler says they intend to keep that streak going.
“It’s a great way to take conservation action because it’s easy, it allows kids and adults alike to feel like they are a part of something that has tangible results,” she says. “And who wouldn’t want to save a gorilla?”
Eco-Cell accepts any and all cellphones – even those large, clunky models from the 1990s — and recycles them. Some of the phones go to charities that need them for emergency 911 use, while others will be recycled because they are no longer usable. The majority, however, will be refurbished and resold to first-time low-income users in areas outside the United States.
Bring Your Own Imagination
Groups and individuals who collect cellphones can use whatever method works for them; 9-year-old Brady Delaney has collected more than 350 cellphones and has set a goal to collect 1,000 phones by the end of March. One local school created a challenge promising something special for the homerooms that collected the most phones: They could throw a pie at their teacher.
“They had a huge assembly and the kids had a blast,” Hoeweler says. “It’s a great way to tie fun into a conservation story. And it teaches kids about being able to have an effect at any age on something positive.”