Trade Your Apple iPhone for a Water Buffalo

Water buffaloes, used in rice farming, purchased by recycling old phones

Water buffaloes, used in rice farming, purchased by recycling old phones

Phone recyclers find novel ways to tempt consumers to part with unused mobile phones

By Robin Rowe

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Gosh!TV) 2013/7/1 – Only 8% of obsolete mobile phones are being recycled, but only 4% are going into landfills. Most are passed along to family and friends, and 44% are sitting unused. Mobile phones are so small that people don’t throw them away. Phone recyclers such as eleGreen, Maxback and Cell Phones for Soldiers offer unique incentives to tempt us to recycle our mobile phones.

“Many customers don’t care about getting $30 back for a used cellphone,” says eleGreen VP of marketing and operations Spencer House. “But once I tell them it can buy a water buffalo for a whole community to share, they start pulling out all the old phones that have been sitting in a drawer.”Water buffaloes are commonly used for tilling rice fields in Vietnam and other Asian countries.

Consumers can trade-in used phones to get cash or have eleGreen donate the money to Heifer International to provide farm animals to impoverished communities or education by sending a girl to school. An iPhone4S, worth $275, enables bigger gifts like a water buffalo, irrigation pumps, or rabbits. An iPhone 3GS, worth $30, turns into a donor’s choice of a goat, a pig, or honeybees.

To collect phones eleGreen pays postage or will pick cellphones for free in southern California. The company says it issues payment within a day of receiving phones or tablets. eleGreen is committed to zero landfill recycling and removes all personal data from phones.

“This is a huge opportunity for our customers to give back to families in need, while disposing of their used cellphones in an environmentally-safe way,” says House. “Heifer International has allowed eleGreen’s business come full circle in creating a world of greener and better living. We reuse technology while Heifer International provides gifts to enrich the lives of families all over the world.”

MaxBack is an electronics buyback recyling company that’s teamed with the U.S. Postal Service. It’s has mailers at post offices and buys phones, iPods and tablets. MaxBack remarkets gently used cell phones and electronics. Damaged or unusable electronics are recycled by MaxBack’s parent company Environmental Reclamation Services, Inc.

Cell Phones for Soldiers has turned old phones into more than 14 million minutes of prepaid calling cards for U.S. service men and women. Your phone won’t end up in a soldier’s hands because of the logistics and technological incompatibilities. Instead, donated cell phones are sold to recycling partner Mindful eCycling. The money received from recycling cell phones is used to purchase calling cards for active-duty military and to assist veterans. Over $2 million has been raised.

More than 400,000 mobile phones are retired every day in the USA. Circuit boards contain 40 to 800 times the amount of gold and 30 to 40 times the amount of copper found in mined ore. There were 1.7 billion mobile phones sold in 2012, about the same as in 2011. According to the EPA, the 100 million phones being retired this year in the U.S. contain 7,500 pounds of gold, 77,200 pounds of silver, 3,527,400 pounds of copper, and 3,300 pounds of palladium that could be recovered.

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