Project EcoCell, coordinated by Stacia Peroni, will increase efforts of the collection of cell phones in the name of conservation.
EcoCell, an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) preferred company, is the premiere handheld electronics recycling program for environmentally minded organizations. A mobile phone can contain more than 40 elements including heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants. These elements pose a concern to both the health of humans and the environment. EcoCell pays the Zoo to help divert toxins from landfills and reclaim these precious metals. A 2015 report released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows Consumer Electronics (CE) are now the fastest declining portion of the municipal waste stream, with a nearly 4% decline in waste generation over the previous year.
Cell phones are connected to wildlife via an ore called Coltan (columbite-tantalite). Coltan is a source of the element tantalum which is an essential coating for components of cell phones. This ore is found in great quantity in the Congo, home to the critically endangered gorilla and chimpanzee. These animals and other species are being killed by rebel bands mining this ore. The U.N. has reported that in the past five years the eastern lowland gorilla population in the Congo has declined 90%.