American Cell Phone Recycler Creates Win-Win-Win

Americans, on average, trade in their cell phones for a newer model every eighteen months, and that creates a huge waste stream of used phones still in usable condition. Fifteen years ago, while cell phones were still a luxury item, Michigan entrepreneur Charles Newman recognized a business opportunity in those old phones. His company, Recellular, now controls more than half of the US market for used cell phones, and in addition to keeping 75,000 phones a week out of landfills, the company provides affordable wireless communications to residents of developing countries around the world. As most used cell phones are collected either by charitable operations, or on behalf of them by wireless giants such as Sprint and Verizon, these used phones also create another stream of revenue for often strapped non-profits:

The March of Dimes, which does research and education on birth defect prevention, turned to ReCellular when it decided to launch a cellphone donation program several years ago. The drive brings in about $160,000 a year.

"They are an excellent company to deal with," said March of Dimes fundraising executive Bob Perry.

When the Canadian Association of Food Banks decided to set up a cellphone collection program, it shopped around for a company to handle the phones, said spokeswoman Tamara Eberle in Toronto.

The umbrella group for 2,000 food banks and other agencies across Canada has collected about 100,000 phones through its Phones for Food program that began in 2003, raising about $140,000.

Those phones often go to countries where residents often have cellular access (over 80% of the world has it), but new phones are prohibitively expensive. Recellular's phones retail for $40 or less, opening up communication possibilities to people far from land line infrastructure. Like Great Britain's envirophone, Recellular demonstrates that reusing and recycling create plentiful opportunities for people, planet and profit. As reduction doesn't seem to be on most Americans' mind in terms of cell phone purchases, it's great to see companies like these keeping older ones in circulation. ::USA Today via NextBillion