Our old phones that sit in drawers are killing Gorillas

I had a old phones from almost 10 years ago that I haven’t had any use for. After I read this paper by Litchfield and Lowry, I finally found a way to put them to use.

Just like the header states, our old phones could possibly help save the critically endangered Grauer gorilla of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As smart phone sells increase, the need to mine for the metal materials used to make the phones increase as well. These “materials” include coltan and gold. These materials are mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is an area that the critically endangered Grauer gorilla resides.

Due to the habitat loss of this species, less than 4000 remain in the wild.

Coltan and gold are “conflict minerals.” I had to do a little research on what this meant, and found out that “conflict minerals” come from areas, like the Congo, where current situations are causing conflict with the ability to mine and trade.

An ongoing program in Australia is encouraging the public to donate their unused phones to be recycled. Once recycled, the special metals in the phone can be extracted and reused.

Besides destroying the habitats of endangered species, smartphones that are discarded in landfills can also release toxins into the ground.

Dr. Jane Goodall began the movement of recycling phones in 2009, and by 2014 over 115,000 old phones had been recycled to the zoos in Australia. This campaign spends time educating zoo visitors on the importance of recycling phones and is currently trying to expand globally.

So, kick your phones out of their drawer “apartments” and donate them to anywhere that accepts them near you. If more people participate in small efforts like this one, it could make a big difference for the species involved. Most zoos and electronic stores will accept recycled phones, and you may get some $ at certain locations for donating!

Carla A. Litchfield, Rachel Lowry, Jill Dorrian. Recycling 115,369 mobile phones for gorilla conservation over a six-year period (2009-2014) at Zoos Victoria: A case study of ‘points of influence’ and mobile phone donationsPLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (12): e0206890 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206890

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