Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Phone Recycling Tirade

So Fido, my mobile phone carrier, calls to inform me that because I’m such a valued customer they would like to upgrade my phone - that is give me a brand spankn’ new one (and hook me into a three year contract while they’re at it). So I ask the young girl, the messenger of such a fabulous gift, if Fido plans to recycle my old phone if I should accept the upgrade. She had to check to see. After a few minutes she informed me that Fido does not recycle phones but that I could always give it away to a friend.


I launched into a tirade. A polite one. It wasn’t the girl’s fault, poor thing. I asked her to please tell the powers that be at Fido that if it wishes to propagate this wasteful practice of high phone turnover to at least offer to collect the old phones for recycling or send them to a company that can do this service for them. Otherwise, these phones likely end up, like millions others, in landfills, part of the toxic soup known as e-waste. And no, I will not give up a perfectly functioning phone thank you very much.

Poor thing. She probably thought her job was sweet. Giving phone gifts to people. Then she called me. The Enviro-Grinch. Likely she passed me off as some green freak. My message of phone recycling to the Fido Execs horribly curtailed…(curses!)

But as it turns out, our young bestower of phones and her supervisor were unaware of Fido’s handset and rechargeable battery recycling program. Fido could have saved me a rant if their fine program was communicated to every single Fido representative.

What’s the Big Deal?
  • Cell phones contain lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. When they end up in the landfill their poison ends up in the groundwater.
  • There are more than 200 million cell phones in use in the USA alone.
  • Approx. 130 million of those phones will be retired since this time last year. Cell phone users toss their phones every 18 months.
  • Only two percent of those retired phones will be recycled.
  • Ninety-eight percent of those 130 million phones end up in the landfill.
  • Get the picture?

How Does Your Mobility Provider Stack Up?
For my American friends, check out Recycle My Cell Phone’s groovy website and their Recycling Report Card on US phone companies. These companies average an F. It’s important to hound these companies. They must act responsibly for the millions of phones that fall victim to ‘upgrades’ every year. Please call your carrier and ask about their recycling program.

Canadian companies have taken some action, some more than others:

Fido – Fido recycles batteries and gives used phones to charities or has their parts recycled and environmentally disposed through Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC). Just drop off your ‘retired’ 18-month old phone at a local Fido store. Fido – you are redeemed! But you need to do a better job in telling your reps about it. I will be writing a letter to remind you.

Rogers – Rogers sponsors the Phones-for-Food program where you can drop off your phone at any Rogers retail outlet. Purolator sends it free to the Phones-for-Food depot where the phones are sorted to be remanufactured. Proceeds go to food banks. As Fido is now part of Rogers, I wonder if Fido phones are part of the food bank deal. Who knows? The Fido people certainly don’t.

Telus – Just return your phone to a Telus store and they will send to RBRC to reuse or recycle. However, they are not good about advertising this service on their website. What’s the point in having a service if people don’t know about it?

BellBell’s Recycle Reuses Redial program not only keeps tens of thousands of its phones from the land fill, it refurbishes them and donates them to women’s shelters, complete with unlimited local calling, call display and access to 9-11 and the Assaulted Women’s hotline. Ok – I was angry with Bell because of their lousy land-line service, but I LOVE them for this. Phones can be dropped off at any of its Bell World stores or drop in the mail. Easy! And their Recycle Reuse Redial program is visibly marketed on their website.

Office Depot is also collecting phones on behalf of RBRC. I noticed that Futureshop was doing something similar.

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