Think Outside the Trash: Recycle Old Cellphones at Great Parks

A child poses next to a large collection of recycled cellphones.
Recycling cellphones reduces the demand for the ore coltan. Mining coltan affects gorilla habitats in Africa. (Photo courtesy ECO-CELL)

If your cellphone is broken or you recently upgraded to a new version, it doesn’t mean it’s game over. Your cellphone is made from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, which require energy to mine and manufacture.

Lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic – all are considered hazardous waste if sent to landfills, where they can leach into the soil and groundwater. Cellphones also contain an ore called coltan, which is mined in endangered gorilla habitats in Africa. Loss of habitat and hunting are serious threats to the gorillas’ future. Reducing the demand for coltan will help save these animals and their habitat.

More than half a billion cellphones in the U.S. alone are ready for recycling, and more than 11 million phones are added to that total each month. Although one device holds expansive materials and has a significant environmental footprint, only 20% of all cellphones in the United States are recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Think Outside the Trash – Please Recycle

Cellphone Recycling bin
Eleven new cellphone recycling drop-off stations are now available at Great Parks visitor centers and golf course clubhouses.

Great Parks is joining the national initiative to increase cellphone recycling, protect the gorillas’ habitat and divert waste from landfills. Eleven new cellphone drop-off stations are now available at clubhouses and visitor centers. Join us to Think Outside the Trash and recycle your old phone.

Before dropping off your old phone, follow these steps based on the brand of your device:

  • For Apple users, please turn off “FMI” Find my iPhone, remove iCloud account and remove screen lock password.
  • For Android users, please log out of all Google and Samsung accounts before recycling and then remove any screen lock password. The next step is to data wipe your device completely of all data.

Curious what happens with the phone?

Great Parks partners with ECO-CELL, a Louisville-based company. If a phone can be reused, ECO-CELL will resell it and give a portion of the money back to Great Parks to support park projects and conservation initiatives. All items that can’t be reused are recycled via R2 certified (Responsible Recycling, a certification that provides clear standards for recyclers to use when they recycle electronics) or better reclamation companies.

Cellphone Drop-Off Locations at Great Parks

Look for marked bins at these park locations:

Learn more on the Cellphone Recycling Program webpage.

Moran Slakmon
Sustainability Coordinator