Old cell phones can help worthy causes

Hoping you get a new cell phone this Christmas? Millions will, meaning there are going to be lots of old cell phones out there.

Americans replace their phones on average every 12 to 18 months and it's estimated that 130 million cell phones are retired every year.

That's more than a billion cell phones lying around in drawers or, worse yet, going to the landfill over the past eight years. Cell phones contain valuable and toxic metals that can be recycled, and working phones can be collected and reused by others. You can give your used phone a second life this holiday season.

The best part? It's easy. Many cell phone providers will take back your old phone and recycle it for you. AT&T, Verizon, Motorola and Sprint all collect used phones to support their charitable or environmental causes.

They are among more than 2,000 companies or organizations that belong to the Wireless Recycling Network of ReCellular, the world's leading recycler and reseller of cell phones.

All makes and models are collected and every phone is refurbished, reused or responsibly recycled. In 2008, ReCellular collected more than 5 million cell phones in the U.S. and Canada.

If you are thinking about donating your phone to help a specific cause, the choices are many.

* Cell Phones for Soldiers turns every donated cell phone into a 60-minute prepaid calling card for U.S. troops overseas. The program already has donated 500,000 calling cards for soldiers.

* March of Dimes, Keep America Beautiful and Call to Protect are other organizations that collect used cell phones to help fund their missions. Many offer pre-paid shipping solutions to collect your phone. You can find more information at www.Recellular.com/recycling.

* If you are looking to raise money for schools, Motorola has just the program for you. Through the Race To Recycle Program, your school partners with Motorola to raise funds for your school. It's easy to register and each school can earn up to $21,000 per calendar year, less shipping and box fees.

Charities aren't the only beneficiaries from recycling used cell phones. In 2008, ReCellular reclaimed 210,000 pounds of copper, 954 pounds of silver and 96 pounds of gold. That's roughly $2.5 million of precious metals that were recycled to produce new phones rather than mining for new materials.