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Mobile recycling campaign 'The Forest Is Calling' taking stand against tech waste

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

An international coalition led by Dr. Goodall and JGI chapters, NGOs, companies and individuals is bringing attention and mobilizing action to reduce the damaging environmental consequences, subsequent human conflict and wildlife loss created by the global technology industry through a campaign beginning with a global Mobile Recycling Day, on February 26.

The international technology industry is devastating human and wildlife communities, while destroying vital habitats, particularly in the Congo Basin in Africa. In response, the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) is using public awareness and mobile recycling actions to both reduce the demand for the extractive minerals used in consumer technologies and the immense resulting waste. ‘The Forest is Calling’, JGI's campaign beginning with a Mobile Recycling Day - celebrated annually on February 26 - aims to inspire action around recycling, reduced consumption and extending the useful life of used electronics.

"Sometimes people don’t understand how terribly, terribly important it is to recycle old cell phones. There are hundreds of thousands of old cell phones lying around, they have coltan In them...It’s leading to the destruction of the rainforest, the death of gorillas and chimpanzees, and other animals and immense hardship for the people." - Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace

The greatest contributing factor has to do with the resources used to make the technology, as mobile phones and many other electronics contain minerals including gold, tin, tungsten, cobalt, and tantalum (coltan). Substantial proportions of the global supply of these minerals are mined in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (EDRC) and are extracted from the area that is both a crucial conservation site for Grauer's gorillas and home one of the largest remaining intact populations of eastern chimpanzees.

The methods to extract these minerals are highly destructive. Compounded by the loss of habitat for endangered great apes and other species, the control of mining sites fuels conflict among human communities and illegal hunting of great apes for bushmeat. Bushmeat hunting associated with the mining of minerals found in mobile technologies has been identified as the number one threat to chimpanzees and gorillas in EDRC. Conflict fueled in part by this mining has resulted in the deaths of millions of people, loss of important resources and the displacement of many thousands of humans and wildlife alike.

By 2020, it's estimated there will be almost 3.6 billion smartphones in circulation around the world (IHSMarkit). With an average lifespan of approximately 2 years before upgrade or replacement, the demand for the resources used to produce mobile devices and the number of devices potentially entering the waste stream will continue to grow. According to a 2017 study, e-waste had risen by eight per cent from 2015, with only 20 per cent being recycled (Telegraph). It was estimated that up to 50 million tons of electronic waste-mainly computers and smartphones-was dumped in 2017 alone (UNEP).

On February 26th, 2019 citizens from around the globe can participate in ‘The Forest is Calling’ by pledging to share information about the inherent harm of the consumer technology industry as it exists today, recycle their unwanted mobile devices with one of JGI’s recycling partners, and/or to extend the life of their device by keeping it for longer. Individuals also can contribute to JGI’s community-centered conservation initiatives, which aid in lessening local participation in mining through public education, alternative sustainable livelihood options and other projects. With these actions, JGI’s friends and supporters are helping protect chimpanzees, people, other species and their habitats.

In New Zealand February 26thmarks the start of a month of action and education about mobile phone recycling, with engagement with the public, schools and businesses. Information about how to participate, along with more facts and resources can be found through JGI New Zealand’s website, http://www.janegoodall.org.nz/jgi-nz-campaigns/sustainable-selves/the-forest-is-calling/

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