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What to do with all those phones.

Byline: Scott Maben The Register-Guard

The largest landfill on Earth is what we've collectively buried in junk drawers and closets, in attics and garages - what we're waiting to throw away. That's where most of our old cell phones can be found, too.

The United States alone has 153 million cell phone users, and each phone on average is in use a mere 18 months, according to INFORM Inc., a nonprofit research organization that examines the effects of business practices on the environment and human health.

By next year, users will retire about 100 million cell phones annually, INFORM reports. When they go in the trash and end up in landfills, the phones become toxic waste, releasing arsenic, lead, cadmium and other heavy metals that can creep into the food chain and cause cancer and birth defects.

Recycling advocates are scrambling to provide alternatives to cell phone disposal, and the options are about to expand for Lane County residents.

Lane County

Starting in early July, the county will begin accepting old cell phones as part of a new electronics recycling program touted as the first of its kind in the state.

At that time, you can make an appointment to drop off the phones and other electronic hardware - TVs, VCRs, DVD players, computers, printers, scanners, copiers, fax machines, video game systems, stereo components and land-line phone systems - at the central receiving station in Glenwood.

You'll have to pay a disposal fee for larger equipment, but not for cell phones, said Pete Chism, waste reduction specialist at Lane County Waste Management. Drop-offs will be scheduled on five days a month for residents and one day a month for businesses, Chism said.

For more information, call 682-4339.

BRING Recycling

For about the past six months, BRING Recycling has taken unwanted cell phones as a participant in the nationwide Donate-a-Phone program.

The nonprofit group sends the phones to ReCellular, a Michigan company that resells about 4 million cell phones worldwide each year.

ReCellular evaluates the potential for reusing handsets it collects from charities and other sources. Newer models are refurbished, reprogrammed and sold, with about $1 going back to BRING for each one. Older ones are dismantled and recycled.

"It's not exactly what you might call a big money maker," said Julie Daniel, BRING's executive director. "On the other hand, they pay for the shipping. Our concern is to make sure these phones are kept out of the landfill."

For more information, call 746-3023.

Womenspace

Womenspace, the support agency for victims of domestic violence, has accepted secondhand cell phones for about four years.

The organization gives the phones to women so they can quickly call 911 if they feel threatened, operations manager Brenda Kozicky said.

Womenspace prefers to have newer models with wall chargers. Donors should make sure they have disconnected their phone service and deleted any phone numbers or other personal information saved on the phones.

For more information, call 485-8232.

The Wireless Source

For a similar purpose, The Wireless Source in Eugene has collected unwanted cell phones - sometimes hundreds a month - for about four years.

The business forwards the phones to the national Call to Protect program, which distributes working phones to agencies that deal with domestic abuse, co-owner Cindy Pedersen said.

When the program has a surplus of old phones, it sells them for use in other countries, with proceeds coming back to the local community to fund social service agencies such as Womenspace, Birth to Three, The Child Center and The Relief Nursery, Pedersen said.

For more information, call 687-8601.

Other retailers

Verizon, AT&T Wireless and many other wireless service-owned outlets, as well as indirect retailers, also take in old phones. Some send them off to be recycled or refurbished, and some donate them to women's shelters and similar organizations.
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Title Annotation:Environment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 2, 2004
Words:631
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