ECO-CELLVirginia Zoo Debuts Cell Phone Recycling Program

October 2, 2019

The Virginia Zoo wants your old smartphones, tablets, adapters and chargers as part of a new technology recycling initiative that will help to protect wildlife habitats.

The Zoo is partnering with ECO-CELL, a family-owned business in Louisville, Kentucky, to recycle electronics that contain rare minerals and metals, like tantalum. Tantalum comes from coltan, a metallic ore that is mined in the African Congo. The mining destroys habitats and threatens animals like the Eastern bongo and yellow-backed duiker, both of which can be seen at the Virginia Zoo. Additionally, disposing of these items in landfills can lead to the minerals leaching into the soil and water sources. By recycling these electronics, the Zoo reduces the amount of the new minerals that need to be mined. This helps to protect many endangered species’ habitats, reduces environmental stress, and deters toxic waste from landfills.

“Litter is a major environmental concern but not many people know that old or broken electronics make up more than two percent of the world’s waste,” says Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “Our new recycling initiative helps animals and their habitats internationally but will also educate members of our community of the importance of not tossing out electronics before checking if they can be repurposed or recycled.”

The project was made possible through Keep Virginia Beautiful’s “30 in 30 Green Grants.” The Zoo received $1,000 in funding and used the donation to create a weather-proof and secure collection bin for the electronics.

The Zoo’s ECO-CELL collection box is located outside of the Zoo’s main entrance near the Zoo Gift Shop. For more information, visit our ECO-CELL page.