Cellular drive to benefit animals

Thursday, June 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:01 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Central Missouri Humane Society wants to keep cellular phones out of local landfills and dusty desk drawers, making a little extra money in the process.

The nonprofit organization will be collecting old cell phones for the next several months as a fund-raiser to help the society’s bottom line. Once the phones accumulate, they will be sent to a wireless collection company in return for a check. Every cell phone collected brings up to $20 to the organization, depending on the age of the phone.

The money will help the Central Missouri Humane Society care for more than 7,000 local animals this year while simultaneously preventing cell phone components from damaging the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, phones will be thrown out at a rate of 130 million per year by 2005, which equates to 65,000 tons of waste.

“The program recycles the components of the phones and is environmentally friendly,” said Mary Paulsell, executive director of the humane society. “We’ve already received bags of phones from people in the community.”

Several cell phone collection programs exist nationwide to recycle or refurbish old wireless phones and accessories, including programs implemented by the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association Wireless Foundation member companies such as Cingular, Nokia, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Motorola. The CTIA Wireless Foundation also coordinates “PhoneRaising” in partnership with ReCellular, Inc., through its Donate A Phone program, which accepts individual phone donations as well as corporate and nonprofit organization donations.

INFORM Inc. is an independent, nonprofit research organization that analyzes the effects that business and living have on the environment. According to one of its recent studies on cell phone waste, the nation’s two leading collection programs, as well as two independent programs examined in the study, collected a total of 2.5 million phones between 1999 and 2003. Most of those were refurbished; 40,000 were recycled or given to individuals such as victims of domestic violence.

ReCellular, Inc., the leading wireless phone and accessory recycler and reseller in the wireless industry, recycles wireless handsets and accessories, batteries, and cardboard paper and plastics using mechanical or manual means, or by smelting to separate precious metals.

FCC rulings in late March made it possible for mid-Missourians to switch cell phone providers without changing their numbers. Paulsell hopes these changes will leave more nonworking cell phones lying around.

“We figured it would be a good time to try the program out, considering the recent changes in cell phone numbers and barriers,” Paulsell said.

In addition to fund-raisers such as the cell phone recycling program, the humane society relies on adoption and service fees, a few grants and donations to remain in operation. The society’s only other source of funding is its contract with the Columbia/ Boone County Health Department’s Animal Control division, Paulsell said.

Though limited financially, the humane society has cared for animals in 20 mid-Missouri counties for 61 years.

“We don’t turn any animal away,” Paulsell said. “Currently, we have a dove, chicken, quail, ferrets, rats, snakes — and we always have rabbits, dogs and cats.”

Services for these animals include pet adoption and intake programs, cruelty and abuse rescue operations, and humane education.

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