Bell Mobility finds home for old cell phones

Bell Mobility expects to recycle more than 60 per cent of the cell phones it receives through a program launched Tuesday to take back wireless devices customers no longer want.

The Toronto-based wireless provider said the program, called

Reduce, Reuse,Recycle, will allow used phones to be dropped off at any Bell World store across the country. A charity component of the program will see some of the phones donated to 90 shelters for women across Canada, along with a subsidized rate plan for women leaving the shelters. Communities on Phone Patrol and various registered children’s charities will also continue to receive donated wireless phones, Bell Mobility said.

“A lot of it has just been people coming into stores and saying, ‘Will you take my old phone?'” said Bell Mobility spokesman Don Blair.”Some people may have a stockpile of old phones they want to get ridof.”

There are organizations in the United States, such as San Francisco-based CollectiveGood, that deal specifically with cell phone recycling, but Blair said Canada needs its own strategy. The company quoted statistics fromEnvironment Canada’s National Office of Pollution Prevention, which says mobile phones will represent 0.3 per cent of disposed IT and telecom equipment by2005.

Blair said 96 per cent of cell phone components can be reused — the keypad is one of the exceptions — but refurbishment will depend on the condition of the device, not its age.

“When they’re purchased, some of the phones will be sold into developed countries, a lot of them will be going to be developing countries where people can’t afford new phones. The price of the refurbishing has to be prettyinexpensive,” he said. “You wouldn’t put a lot of new equipment or time into refurbishing a phone if it’s past its prime.”

Women’s Habitat in Etobicoke, Ont., is one of the Canadian shelters that will receive the used phones, along with unlimited local airtime, call display and 911 access. Rhonda Roffey, its executive director, said many of the women who leave the shelter enter lives of extreme poverty, and will be able to use the phones to seek work, an apartment or to check up on children in day care.

“The 10 women that we would have in our shelter right now — I don’t think anybody has a cell phone,” she said. “It’s a rare occurrence. I would say maybe 10 per cent. Usually ‘he’s’ got the cell phone.”

Blair said Bell Mobility may expand the program to allow drop-offs among independent phone dealers and even its own offices, where for years it has run a battery recycling program. It may also work more closely with corporate accounts, he said.

Two garbage trucks would be able to carry off the 22,679 kg. in used phonesBell Mobility estimates it will receive from the first year of the program.

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