Education

Cellphone Recycling Benefits Schools

November 16, 2004 1 min read

Can you hear me now?

For hundreds of schools participating in a cellphone- recycling program, the answer is a resounding yes.

Nearly 6,000 school and community organizations have signed on with EcoPhones, an Addison, Texas-based company founded in 2001. The company, which aims to help ease the burden of technological waste, encourages schools to run fund-raising programs that urge parents and community members to recycle their old cellphones.

The schools gather used working and nonworking cellphones and send them to EcoPhones, which pays all shipping fees and gives the schools up to $100 per phone, although most phones range from $5 to $25. The company then repairs the phones and resells them to low-income users and organizations in Mexico and other developing countries. Any phones that are useless are dismantled and recycled according to federal environmental regulations.

One school in Coppell, Texas, collected more than 3,000 phones and made $10,000.

Most schools use the money to support community programs and philanthropic causes, according to Walter Engelbrecht, the company’s chief executive officer.

EcoPhones also often donates the phones it receives to organizations that help those in need, Mr. Engelbrecht said.

Cellphones contain several toxic substances—including copper, arsenic, and zinc—all of which can leach into the soil of landfills and eventually contaminate the water supply.

The average cellphone user replaces his or her phone every 12 to 16 months, according to Mr. Engelbrecht.

An estimated 100 million cellphones will be retired annually by 2005 in the United States alone, according to a report by INFORM Inc., a New York City-based nonprofit organization that promotes ideas to keep the environment clean.

A version of this article appeared in the November 17, 2004 edition of Education Week

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