University City

Donating old cell phones can make a difference

Did you know you could help a member of the military, a victim of domestic violence or the environment by donating your old cell phone?

Millions of people have owned more than one cell phone. Regardless of the carrier you use, you can make a positive difference by donating your old one.

Since 2007, AT&T company-owned stores (there's a University City location at 230 W.T. Harris Blvd.) has partnered with a nonprofit organization called "Cell Phones for Soldiers." They use money from recycling phones to buy prepaid phone cards for active-duty military members.

Each AT&T store has a drop-off site for used phones.

AT&T spokesperson Josh Gelinas said, "In 2010, the program donated 220,000 prepaid phone cards worth more than $1 million to military members and their families."

"In 2010 AT&T's efforts brought in 16.3 million cell phones as well as 5.8 million pounds of batteries and accessories for recycling," said Gelinas. For more information go to www.att.com.

When victims of domestic violence are faced with establishing a new way of life, having a cell phone can be life-changing. Verizon Wireless created a program called HopeLine to help meet that need.

HopeLine is a cell phone recycling and refurbishing program that provides phones to victims.

"Victims feel safe and less isolated with a cell phone," said Karen Schulz, vice president of operations for Verizon. "It is important that cell phone donors know that all (the donor's) personal data is cleared when the phones are recycled or refurbished."

Since 2001 Verizon Wireless has distributed 106,000 phones with 319,000 free minutes of service. Schulz said, "We've properly disposed of 1.7 million wireless phones and kept more than 210 tons of electrical waste out of landfills."

She emphasized that the company works hard to be "green" and to recycle in an environmentally sound way.

You can drop of your old phone, batteries and accessories (such as chargers) at any Verizon location. Verizon's University City office is at 110 McCullough Drive. (The front door faces North Tryon Street, a few blocks from Harris Boulevard.)

The phones, batteries and accessories can be any make or model. The condition or age of the donated items does not matter. If you prefer to mail the items in, Verizon provides prepaid mailing labels on its website.

The HopeLine program has directly benefited United Family Services, which oversees the Shelter for Battered Women in Charlotte. HopeLine has also assisted the N.C. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault.

Karen Schulz encourages any organization interested in applying for grant dollars or recycled cell phones to send in a completed grant request form. For details go to www.verizonwireless.com or call 0 Schulz directly at 864-987-2006.

T-Mobile, another cell phone service carrier, has a number of programs to encourage people to turn in their old phones, in an effort to keep the lithium-ion batteries out of landfills. You can drop off old phones, accessories and even other electronic devices into T-Mobile's boxes for recycled phones. The T-Mobile store in University City is at 8821 J.W. Clay Blvd.

Besides a customer trade-in program, T-Mobile has also partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency to participate in the "Plug-In to eCycling" campaign to increase cell phone recycling. For more information about recycling through T-Mobile, go to www.t-mobile.com.

Before you discard your old cell phone, check with your carrier to see whether it offers programs that use old phones to benefit others. Also check out their efforts to benefit the environment. Environmentally sound recycling is a gift to all of us and to future generations.

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