Recycle Cell Phones

Got an old cell phone? Recycle it with Eco-Cell. By doing so, toxic waste is kept out of the landfill, the refurbished phone benefits people in need, and you're helping gorillas in the wild. And when you bring your old cell phone to the Oakland Zoo Rides Area ticket booth, you get a FREE ride on the train.

So how does recycling your cell phone help gorillas? Inside that little device you have in your pocket or stuck to your ear is a metallic ore called Coltan, which is short for Columbite-tantalite, a vital component that controls current flow in cell phone circuit boards. Your i-pod, laptop, DVD player and game console most likely also contain Coltan.

This highly desired ore originates in the soils of the rainforest, and 80% of it comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Central Africa. Within the main area where Coltan is mined lies the Kahuzi Biega National Park, home of the highly endangered Mountain Gorilla. In recent years, the park's gorilla population has been cut nearly in half, as the ground is cleared to make mining easier. This practice has reduced the available food for the gorillas and displaced local populations, leading to impoverished people killing gorillas and selling them as "bush meat" to the miners and rebel soldiers that control the area.

Within the Dem. Rep. of Congo, the number of eastern lowland gorillas in eight national parks has declined by 90% over the past 5 years, leaving only 3000 gorillas total. But there is hope. Companies that use Coltan are beginning to demand that their Coltan comes only from a legitimately mined source, and that this is verified on the packaging, much like Dolphin Safe Tuna.

What you can do currently is reduce and recycle. Reduce the amount of electronics, including cell phones, that you buy and recycle them when you are definitely done with them. Recycling these items helps eliminate the need for more mining and keeps them out of the landfill. Eco-Cell (www.eco-cell.org), a Kentucky based company, works to help gorillas by encouraging cell phone recycling, educating about the issues and donating funds to support gorilla conservation.

The Oakland Zoo is happy to take your old cell phone and recycle it through Eco-Cell. Just bring it in to our Rides Area ticket booth and turn it in. Each phone is good for a complimentary train ticket.

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