Monday, July 23, 2007

Getting Rid of Old Cell Phones and Rechargeable Batteries

By Ki Hackney

I have been moving an old cell phone around my office for two years, wondering what to do with it and would probably have a laptop doing the same circuit, if my husband hadn’t adopted it as his mobile architectural office. What to do? I know that today’s alkaline batteries can be tossed safely into the normal trash (because they no longer contain mercury) and had heard that there was a group who recycled rechargeables, but who, where, and how?

Last week, I met the people who have the answers, during a press preview at THINK PR, when I was introduced to Jessica Brown Stanton from Crenshaw Communications and her client RBRC…which stands for the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation. That was simple. And so is the program, known as Call2Recycle™.
A recent drop-off of cell phones and batteries at RadioShack.
“If it’s rechargeable, it’s recyclable,” says Linda Gabor, the organization’s Communications Director, by telephone from her office in North Carolina, pointing out that the group has 50,000 drop-off locations across the U.S. and Canada, with more coming on board every day. Most are national, including Duane Reade Inc., Rite Aid, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Sony Retail Store, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Circuit City, Best Buy, Office Depot and Staples. Whole Foods is testing the program in their store in Milburn, NJ. And Fry’s Electronics is testing in CA.

Frankie Sanchez, the store manager at RadioShack on 85th and 3rd, informed us that he must place each battery in a packet like this
before sending the collection box back to RBRC.
In New York City, Gracious Home not only keeps the brown-paper-with-green-lettering Call2Recycle drop-off boxes, the main store at 1220 Third Avenue has turned the RBRC posters into drop-off wastebaskets near the front entrance.  We photographed the manager John Pepin‘s crafty effort, and with the help of Electronics salesman, Henry Paredes, a student nearing graduation at NYU Film School, we zeroed in on some of the electronic products that the store sells which use rechargeable batteries.

RadioShack is a major recycler in the program, and the Third Avenue/85th Street store manager, Frankie Sanchez, who seems to be able to answer any question about and/or find the right electronic equipment for any need, says that he fills so many Call2Recycle boxes that he can barely keep up. When we visited, he had already filled two large shopping bags full of cell phones and batteries (see photos) before the time the next empty boxes arrived from RBRC. Sanchez points out that customers love the cordless phones with several extension phones and that these systems require more than multiple rechargeable batteries.

New York City, it’s interesting to note, is the only city in NY state that requires the recycling of all rechargeable batteries. Bloomberg signed off on this requirement in 2005 and it went into effect Dec. 1, 2006. As a state, New York is lawless.
Cameras, phones, radios, all candidates for rechargeable batteries.
Here are a few of the rechargeable battery-loving products along with a few interesting facts:

Products include cell phones, cordless phones, cordless power tools, digital cameras, camcorders, PDAs, remote control toys, police radar guns, portable heart monitors, bar code readers, portable printers, laptop computers, two-way radios, some portable radios.

Some of the electronic products that Gracious Home sells which use rechargeable batteries.
Americans use an average of six wireless products on a daily bases; some of us up to ten.

On average, Americans have three cell phones in their possession and almost half of us cell phone users replace our phones every two years, while 20% of us replace them every year. When possible, RBRC refurbishes and sells cellular phones, and a portion of the proceeds is donated to charity.

According to Ms. Gabor, “The more expensive the device the more we want to hang onto it.  We feel it has some value, even when it doesn’t; we don’t know what to do or don’t know what the cost will be. We call it “hoarding” [Yep! I qualify here, as do 61% of us, apparently]. Getting rid of old cell phones and/or batteries is really helping the environment and helping to provide new materials.”

Most batteries can be recharged up to 1000 times and, depending on wear and tear, last two-to-five years.

RBRC was founded in 1996 is funded by more than 350 electronics and rechargeable battery manufacturers and marketers, and the collection program - including boxes/supplies, shipping and recycling costs - is free to all participating retail, business, community, and public agencies. TO FIND A LOCATION NEAREST YOU, and RBRC keeps their info up to date; the website easy to use, go to:  or call 877-2-RECYCLE.
A selection of cordless phones and rechargeable batteries from Gracious Home.
Remember: "Getting rid of old cell phones and/or batteries is really helping the environment and helping to provide new materials."

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