Don’t let your old, unused cell phones gather any more dust — you could actually help save gorillas if you recycle them. Here’s why: Cell phone batteries contain coltan, a rare mineral that’s mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The main area where coltan is found is also a natural habitats of gorillas, and the mining has caused a worrying dip in local gorilla populations. The UN estimates only 3,000 gorillas now remain in the country’s national parks, according to Cellular News. This means that if you recycle your phone, you’re helping prevent further disruption to these amazing animals’ habitats.
As Earth911 reports, The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical garden is working on this issue with an ongoing cell phone recycling program, called Project Saving Species. Since the program’s launch in 2006, the zoo has already collected about 60,000 devices.
According to the zoo’s website, the average American swaps phones every 18 months but less than 1 percent of old phones are recycled. And besides coltan, cell phones also contain hazardous waste materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic — which means you don’t want to send them to landfills anyway. If you watch the video above, you can learn more about why you should recycle phones to help save gorillas and the planet.
And if you ever find yourself visiting the Cincinnati Zoo, don’t forget to bring all your old gadgets to the drop-off bins. Or, if you want to localize the cause, the zoo is holding a “Go Bananas!” challenge where schools and community groups can hold drives to collect phones and win prize money (and, more importantly, save the gorillas!).