EPA touts cell-phone recycling in new push

WASHINGTON: The Environmental Protection Agency along with wireless retailers and manufacturers has launched a public education campaign to encourage more people to recycle cell phones.

WASHINGTON: The Environmental Protection Agency along with wireless retailers and manufacturers has launched a public education campaign to encourage more people to recycle cell phones.

EPA press officer Roxanne Smith said campaign partners including Staples, AT&T Wireless, Motorola, Office Depot, Best Buy, and six other firms will be holding various events to encourage cell phone users to drop off their old or unused phones at retail stores and other drop-off locations throughout the country. Dates and times of these events have not yet been determined.

As part of the $175,000 campaign -- called “Recycle Your Cell Phone. It's an Easy Call” -- EPA-sponsored PSAs will run in various lifestyle and high-tech publications with a generally younger readership, in recognition of the demographic that most frequently changes phones. A related podcast will be posted on iTunes, Podcast Alley, and other online locations.

Smith said media outreach to local and national outlets is being handled in-house by the EPA, though ICF International and the retail and manufacturing partners helped collectively develop the overall campaign themes and strategy.

“Some of the partners already had programs for taking back cell phones, but this will be more of a big effort,” Smith said. “Each company has a slightly different program, but the overarching message is that you can recycle your cell phone and it's easy. They're still working it out, but they will have events to … help make an entire city aware of this and really be able to be more proactive in this recycling.”

Less than 20% of cell phones are recycled annually, according to the EPA, which estimates there are between 100 million and 130 million unused phones in the country, all of which could be recycled for their components. The new education campaign is part of a larger recycling partnership between the EPA and electronics manufacturers called “Plug-In to eCycling.”

Companies participating in the cell phone effort also include LG Electronics, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Options for dropping off unused phones will include in-store locations and other places listed on the EPA's Web site, www.epa.gov.

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