B.C recycling council challenges residents to turn in old phones

Waste reduction advocates in B.C. hope to see a crush of old cell phones dropped off at recycling centres this month as part of a push to properly dispose of the devices.

The Recycling Council of B.C. wants to mark Earth Day, which is Monday April 22, by persuading people to empty their junk drawers and cupboards for old phones, and bring them in to be reused or properly broken apart.

The devices have metals such as copper, silver and gold in them that can be used for new phones.

"When it's just sitting at home we have to mine for more natural resources to make new phones, whereas we could reuse the materials from your old phones once it's been recycled," said Harvinder Aujala with the council.

He said the average person in Canada gets a new mobile phone every 18 months.

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According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which represents wireless companies and runs corporate social responsibility programs, more than six out of 10 Canadians have a cell phone they are not using and have stored it away.

"We just want to encourage everyone to take those old phones out of your drawers that are sitting around, make sure that you're not putting them in the landfill, and helping the environment by recycling your phone," said Robert Ghiz, president and CEO of the association.

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The Recycling Council of B.C says it gets around three calls every day to its hotline from people asking how to recycle phones.

"We think a lot more people probably have them and either don't know where to take it, maybe don't know it's recyclable so we're encouraging more people to either give us a call or go online and find out how to responsibly recycle their cell phones," said Aujala.

Free and easy recycling

The association runs a free recycling program across Canada, which allows for anyone to drop off or mail in their old phones to be recycled. There are 250 locations in B.C., according to Aujala.

Ghiz says since 2005, the program has recovered more than 7.5 million devices.

The program shows phone owners how to remove personal information from phones before handing them over. Ghiz says the certified recyclers also check each phone to make sure they are free of personal information before they are reused.

The association will also run a school program for all of April that allows schools to collect phones and ship them off for recycling.

Each phone collected will earn the school $1 to a maximum of $1,000.