Friday, August 15, 2008


There are an estimated 243 million cell phone users in the United States. That number is dwarfed only by the estimated number of unused cell phones lurking in junk drawers and closets – 500 million. And the number of obsolete and unused cell phones is growing by an estimated 100 million each year. It's also estimated that the average wireless customer changes phones every 16 months. We're being buried in unused cell phones.

Certainly, recycling unused, obsolete or broken cell phones keeps hazardous waste out of our landfills, but it CAN also help animals in the wild.

Columbite-tantalite, or Coltan for short, is a dull metallic ore found in major quantities in the eastern areas of the African Congo. It is used in cell phones, laptops, pagers and other electronic devices. When refined, coltan becomes metallic tantalum, a heat resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge. Some types of Coltan mining may occur illegally in protected lands all across the Congo which in turn put wildlife such as Elephants and Gorillas of the Congo region at risk.

The Houston Zoo and 46 other zoos and aquariums across the country are in partnership with Eco-Cell, a cell phone-recycling firm based in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Houston Zoo has a recycling bin in our gift shop for collection of unwanted cell phones, batteries, and chargers. Zoo guests may also mail them in (see address below).

One hundred percent of the funds raised from the recycling of unwanted cell phones and accessories support the Houston Zoo’s wildlife conservation programs in Texas as well as in Africa and Asia. Through the Zoo’s partnership with Eco-Cell, items collected are sold, refurbished, or recycled. Damaged or obsolete phones are safely recycled in accordance with all applicable environmental guidelines.

The Houston Zoo’s Recycling Program also accepts empty inkjet, laser printer cartridges, and PDAs (palm pilots) for recycling.

If you have any questions about the Houston Zoo’s cell phone recycling program, please contact Brian Hill at or call 713-533-6531. I’d be happy to connect you with our Conservation Department. The mailing address for the recycling program is below.

Houston Zoo Inc.
Cell Phone Recycle
1513 North MacGregor
Houston, TX 77030


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Kathy said...

Cell phone companies should give the customer a small rebate for the old phone. This might capture more phones to recycle. I know we have three or four old cell phones in our "junk drawer".