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Virginia Zoo debuts cell phone recycling program to help save wildlife

The Virginia Zoo is recycling electronics to reduce the amount of minerals that need to be mined and help keep the technology out of landfills.
Credit: The Virginia Zoo

NORFOLK, Va. — The Virginia Zoo is collecting smartphones, tablets, adapters, and chargers.

It's part of a new technology recycling initiative that will help to protect wildlife habitats. The Virginia Zoo partnered with ECO-CELL, a family-owned business in Louisville, Kentucky, to recycle electronics that contain rare minerals and metals, like tantalum.

The zoo said 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

On top of the mining dangers, disposing of the items in landfills can lead to minerals leaching into the soil and water sources. So, the Virginia Zoo is asking for individuals to recycle their electronics to reduce the amount of minerals that need to be mined and help keep the technology out of 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 zoo said the project was made possible through Keep Virginia Beautiful’s “30 in 30 Green Grants.” The zoo was awarded $1,000 in funding and used the donation to acquire a weather-proof and secure collection bin for the electronics. 

The Zoo’s ECO-CELL collection box is currently located outside of the Zoo’s main entrance near the Zoo Gift Shop.

Click here for more information.

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