Calling all discarded cell phones

Photo by Rebecca Long

Photo by Rebecca Long

By Diane Glidewell


Recycling means finding a new use for something rather than discarding it as trash and creating the problem of how to deal with the unwanted remains. Since about 100 million mobile phones become obsolete due to upgrades or damage each year, it is a challenge to find a better place for old phones or their parts than in a landfill.

A group of Jackson High School teachers and students has joined the Samsung Mobile March to a Million project to collect and recycle one million mobile phones in 2010. The drive will continue through June 1. There are collection boxes at Jackson High School and Daughtry Elementary School. They would love to add collection boxes at other locations in the community.

The project is spearheaded by French teacher Shannon Busey and science teachers Shelley Seagraves and Cathleen Eckholm. They have been involved in other aspects of recycling at JHS and recently added this project. As Earth Day 2010 was celebrated on April 22, they worked to make their students and the community more aware of the need for recycling efforts.

As an incentive, Samsung enters the group in a drawing for a $1,000 "green grant" for each 25 phones turned in. The green grant is used to make the classroom more environmentally friendly. Both working and non-working phones count toward the collection. Parts of phones which can be recycled include memory chips, LCD screens, circuit boards, battery packs, and enclosure pieces. Even broken chargers will be accepted.

These parts are used for metal, plastics, and mercury recovery; circuit boards are sent to the recyclable commodities market. Currently only 10 percent of mobile phones in the U.S. are recycled each year. All of the mobile phones discarded in the U.S. this year would extend from New York to the International Space Station and back 14 times, according to the information provided by Samsung Mobile.

Ms. Busey is in charge of recycling paper at Jackson High School; she encourages teachers to work toward paperless classrooms. Her bulletin boards are backed by old newspapers rather than new paper.

Ms. Seagraves helps students recycle candy wrappers and chip bags through Taracycle. The items are made into purses and bags which are sold at Wal-mart. All three teachers recycle aluminum and plastics in their classrooms, and other teachers also bring them these items to recycle.

"We are trying to instill in our students not to thoughtlessly throw away, " said Ms. Seagraves. "We want to increase their awareness of taking care of Earth."

Last year on Earth Day, students broke ground on a flower and vegetable garden just outside their classrooms on the front wing of Jackson High School. This year students were working to till up the plot and add some fresh plants to it.

Ms. Seagraves, who teaches Environmental Science, frequently seaches for applicable grants on the Internet. When her students became interested in earthworm farms, their request to Donors Choose was funded in two weeks and the working earthworm farm is now in Ms. Seagraves' classroom for the observation and inspiration of students, and an occasional meal for the newt who lives with the earthworms.

Recycling takes some time and effort, but it offers enormous possibilities for the community and the future, beginning with the opportunities for learning and creativity it gives students.

Students in the Special Education Department have joined the effort by donating ice cream coupons to each student who turns in a cell phone for recycling.