E.P.A. Promotes Cellphone Recycling

The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) launched a $175,000 campaign today to remind people to recycle their old handsets. The initiative, entitled “Recycle Your Cellphone. It’s an Easy Call.”, will relay on public service announcements that target 18-to-34-year-olds, the population that trade up to new cellphones the most often. The announcements will explain why recycling old handsets is good for the environment. The E.P.A. will also release a pod cast in which experts explain the whys and hows of mobile phone recycling.

The E.P.A estimates that 150 million cellphones a year are taken out of service. The United States alone has over 240 million wireless subscriptions. While an individual phone doesn’t have much environmental impact, taken all together, disposal could create problems in the future. Handheld devices contain metals, plastics and chemicals that could become hazardous if they end up in a landfill and leach into the ground. Part of the program includes donating old mobile phones to charities and poor people for reuse.

“There are significant environmental and energy benefits to getting these phones back into the product stream,” the director of the agency’s office of solid waste, Matt Hale, said.

“Our key role is to get the message out, that recycling cellphones is easy and convenient,” said Mr. Hale, who estimates that 20 percent of unwanted cellphones are recycled or reused each year.

Eleven companies — AT&T, Best Buy, LG Electronics, Motorola, Nokia, Office Depot, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, Staples and T-Mobile — are partners in the campaign. Each has promised to collect phones and hold recycling events.

“Each partner will still have its own program,” Mr. Buckley said, “but E.P.A. is providing a standardized message to consumers.”

The E.P.A. will create a list of cellphone drop-off centers on various Web sites, including epa.gov. Some companies have plans to offer credit and other financial incentives for recycling mobile phones.