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"You can't just throw old phones in the bin because of the environmental impact" - Mark Harrison of Isis

In this throw-away age of disposable technology, people are upgrading and replacing their phones with greater regularity. In the UK, around 4 million replacement phones are sold each year. Most are discarded, an estimated 20 million potentially toxic redundant mobile telephones in the UK alone. Whilst some companies will accept the old handset in part exchange, many users simply toss their old equipment in the bin.

Unfortunately, the batteries can leak cadmium, a dangerous toxic substance - into the soil. Whilst responsible disposal can avoid this scenario, there are alternatives which benefit others. Even with the newer, less harmful battery technologies, many components can be reused or recycled. In many cases, the phones being refurbished and shipped to poorer areas of the world, for use by charitable organisations.

The UK charity Oxfam (www.oxfam.org) has launched an appeal for old mobiles to raise money for charitable causes. Each handset is worth between £2 and £20 to the charity. A Nokia 5110, for instance, pays for 24 school desks for children in Kenya. In addition, many mobiles are exported to African countries with poor landline infrastructure, where handsets are still notoriously expensive.

Oxfam's campaign address is:

Oxfam Bring Bring Scheme
W5 5BR
Be responsible! Other organisations which recycle technology include EMC in the UK at http://www.emc-recycle.com/ and Radio Shack in the US, in conjuction with http://www.wirelessfoundation.org/12give/. A comprehensive list is also available at http://www.sabahrecycle.net/konsumer/link.cfm
If you're in the United States, here's an easier, and more direct, way to recycle your old phone.

Call to Protect is a charity funded by Motorola which provides old mobile phones to women who are victims of domestic violence. Phone companies donate the airtime, while the phones come from donations from the company or from private citizens. So far, about 30,000 have been collected.

Cell phones are very useful for victims of domestic violence so that they feel they have a lifeline to turn to whenever they're in danger. When a woman runs away from her home in the heat of a conflict for fear of her life, she can use her phone to call for help. Sometimes it just enables the confidence neccesary to take a stand.

I know a lot of people with old phones stashed away in a drawer, products of upgrades to smaller and shinier models. Here's a way to do some good, and save lives.

Until July 31st, you can just drop it off at the nearest Radio Shack. You could mail it here:

c/o Motorola
1580 E. Ellsworth Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

or go here to find a dropoff location near you: http://www.wirelessfoundation.org/12give/where.cfm

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