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Answer The Call Mobile Phone Recycling Programme
Gorillas are on the brink of extinction, partly because their habitat and family groups are being destroyed by the mining of coltan, a mineral needed to make mobile phones and other electronic devices.
Together, Australia Zoo and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) have developed Answer The Call, a programme designed to help you help a gorilla, simply by recycling your old mobile phones. By sending us your old unwanted mobiles, you’ll be helping to save the life of a magnificent great ape in Central Africa. FFI receive a financial contribution for every phone sent in for Answer The Call, which through the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), is ensuring the survival of these magnificent creatures and their shrinking afro-montane forest habitat. This is the only programme in existence that covers the mountain gorilla’s entire range and integrates all aspects of their conservation.
Without coltan, laptop computers, hearing aids, video cameras, digital cameras, games consoles like PlayStation, X-box and Nintendo and the ubiquitous mobiles would simply not function. 80% of the world’s known coltan supplies are found in Central Africa, smack bang in the middle of natural gorilla habitat. The destruction of this forest by mining, along with poaching, human conflict and disease is seeing a rapid decline in the population of the gorilla.
Every phone sent to us will be either repaired and sent on to developing countries, or pulled apart and completely recycled, so not only are you helping save a gorilla with the funds raised, you’re also lessening your impact on the environment by not contributing to landfill and reducing the demand for valuable resources. Please, ‘Answer The Call’ and save a gorilla today.
”Ultimately Gorilla conservation is about helping people – some of the poorest on the planet. Survival of the gorilla and the long term future of local communities are intrinsically interwoven. By saving the gorillas we are also helping save the way of life of millions of people whose livelihoods also depend on the forest. Having recently seen some of these communities first hand, I can’t encourage you enough to help us give something back and make sure they’re here to stay. FFI’s pioneering, holistic approach to saving the Gorilla on the ground is making a real difference – but we need your help.”
Rove McManus, FFI Australia Vice-President
Why should I recycle my old mobile phone?
In drawers and cupboards all across the country, lie small pieces of broken or outdated technology that have the capability of helping the environment and the species that live in it.
Saving animals and their habitat is directly linked to saving humankind. Biodiversity conservation and humanitarian needs are basically one and the same, completely dependant on each other. Saving forests from decimation not only preserves the homes of many species, but also the livelihoods of the communities who depend on the forest and its by-products.
Mobile phones are not biodegradable. In Australia, estimated figures are that 3.5 million new mobile phones have been sold in the last 12 months. With the advent of new technology and coloured screens, that number is only going to increase – and rapidly. We live in a consumer society, we want the latest, the smallest the fastest, but do we give consideration to the effect our zealous consumerism has on the environment and the tens of thousands of species that call it home?
Recycling your phone stops it from becoming landfill, which even a monkey – or a gorilla perhaps – knows is completely unsustainable. Dumping mobile phones creates long term pollution risk to the environment. Australia Zoo and FFI believe that recycling mobile phones is the only sensible and conscientious alternative to dumping your phone in the bin.
There are serious health risks involved if you chuck your phone in the garbage. Although everything in a mobile phone is solid-state (i.e. there are no moving parts or liquids that can be released in normal use) they do contain concentrations of potentially hazardous substances including cadmium, lead, nickel, mercury, manganese, lithium, zinc, arsenic, antimony, beryllium, and copper. These metals are known as persistent, meaning they don’t degrade in the environment. They are also bioaccumulative, meaning they build up in fatty tissue so can reach toxic levels over time. If any of these metals are allowed to leak into the environment, e.g. in a landfill when NiCd battery cases rupture or corrode, in significant quantities, they may leach into the watercourses or contaminate the soil. Metals build up in the soil and they can then enter the food chain and in sufficient concentrations may cause health problems.
The chemicals found in mobile phones are associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including damage to the nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, cancer and genetic impacts.
Cadmium is considered as the 7th most dangerous substance known to man. It is a toxic heavy metal that can harm humans and animals that ingest it. It is also carcinogenic.
The health effects of lead poisoning are well known. If lead is absorbed into the bloodstream in sufficient quantities it will cause serious liver and kidney damage in adults and neurological damage in children.
Incineration of the plastics in mobile phones may also be of concern where the process is not managed in compliance with strict environmental guidelines because it may result in the release of harmful dioxins and furans.
Nickel and mercury are toxic and are classed as hazardous substance. Although Li-Ion batteries are free of heavy metals (lithium has a low atomic number), lithium’s high degree of chemical activity can create environmental problems. When exposed to water, which is present in most landfills, the metal can burn, causing underground fires that are difficult to extinguish.
Recycling will have a positive effect on other industries. Over 90% of the plastics and metals in mobile phones, batteries and accessories can be recovered and used as raw materials to make new products such as stainless steel, plastic fence posts and jewellery.
What happens to my old phone?
All phones received by ARP are recorded, sorted, tested, repaired if necessary and refurbished and then exported to developing countries. These phones help bridge the digital divide, improving the local economies and also the quality of life by providing affordable, first-time modern communications for many people. Phones that can not be reused are dismantled for parts to help repair phones or make up a working phone. If the parts cannot be used, ARP recovers materials for use in manufacture of other products. Older phones that are seriously damaged are sent to material recycling, where materials can be recovered and put back into productive use. The remaining materials are sent for disposal in an environmentally friendly manner. No materials go to landfill.
How can I send my phone in?
It’s easy to Answer The Call. To send us your old mobile phones, you can do one of the following:
If you’re a COMPANY, SCHOOL GROUP or COMMUNITY ORGANISATION and wish to become involved with Answer The Call, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information about how you can get all of your staff, members or pupils involved!
Who can participate in this program?
Answer The Call is free and open to all individuals, companies, community organisations and schools. If you have a group of handsets you’d like to donate, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for further details on how to do so.
Will it cost me anything?
No. Pre-addressed satchels can simply be filled in and popped in the post at no expense to you. Alternatively you can download a reply paid address label right now. This is also completely free, although you would need to provide some sort of envelope.