Recycle Your Cell Phone


Why is it Important to Recycle Old Cell Phones?

It’s a bigger story than you think.

The scope of the problem
Due to their small size and rapid replacement cycle, cell phones are more likely to end up in the waste stream and contribute to a growing portion of toxic materials that end up in our landfills.
There are over 260 million cell phone users (85% of the population) in the U.S. alone with nearly 1 billion currently in retirement. It has been estimated that only 10% of unwanted cell phones are recycled each year.
Health and environment
Cell phones and their accessories contain a large number of hazardous substances known as Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic Chemicals (PBTs). Included in the list of PBTs are metals (e.g. antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper and lead) which escape into the environment, contaminating natural resources and polluting wildlife habitat. These toxins travel through animal and human food chains causing birth defects, neurological damage and cancer.

Recycling cell phones reduces greenhouse gas emissions, keeps valuable material out of landfills and incinerators, and conserves natural resources. Recycling just a million cell phones reduces greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 33 cars off the road for a year.
Endangered animals
An ore called Coltan (columbite-tantalite) is a source of the element tantalum which is an essential coating for components of cell phones. This ore is often found in the Congo in the middle of endangered gorilla and elephant habitats. These animals are being killed by rebel bands mining this ore. Reducing the demand for Coltan will help save these animals and their habitat.  
Return the Call of the Wild
douc langur
The Philadelphia Zoo Docent Council has an ongoing effort to raise awareness about the effects of cell phones on the environment and to help with the solution.

Funds raised through the Return the Call of the Wild program go to the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre, a nonprofit organization working to conserve endangered primates in Vietnam, home of the beautiful douc langur monkey, one of the most-endangered primates in the world.

The Philadelphia Zoo is the only Zoo in the country currently exhibiting douc langurs. They can be seen at the Rare Animal Conservation Center. As part of its global conservation efforts, the Zoo is working to raise awareness on the conservation issues affecting douc langur wild populations and has also successfully bred its doucs, which are among the most sensitive and delicate of all primates.

A Return the Call of the Wild collection box is located at the Zoo’s North Gate entrance.

Contact the Zoo’s docent office at 215-243-5317 or by email at for information on how you can join the Zoo’s Return the Call of the Wild project by collecting cell phones at your school or business.