The collapse of scrap metal commodity pricing in late 2008 forced Patrick Hebert to discontinue the operation of Thriftopia.com in Barrie, an organization that provided free computer and electronic recycling services to the public and that employed people with special needs. The added complexity of working within the Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) program and challenges in obtaining information from downstream partners contributed to his decision to “pull the plug.”
Following the company’s closure, Hebert was retained by MaSeR Canada to compile that company’s documentation for the OES until MaSeR’s bankruptcy and sale in April, 2009. Having had no success in obtaining gainful employment in the electronic recycling field, Hebert decided to try his luck once again as an entrepreneur by offering cell phone reuse and recycling services to the Barrie and Orillia communities (with the goal of eventually extending collection to other regions).
With a low 12 per cent diversion rate, nearly one million cell phones are estimated to be retired each month in Canada by the country’s nearly 21,000,000 wireless subscribers. The upcoming switchover by Bell and Telus from CDMA to GSM technology and the introduction of hands-free laws in many Canadian jurisdictions may increase the rate of obsolescence.
Hebert saw this as an opportunity and so he founded CellCycle.ca
While many other cell phone recycling options are available in Canada, most are not forthcoming with details about where the phones ultimately end up. Hebert is concerned that some may in fact be processed in developing nations to the detriment of their population. Prior to launch Hebert established relationships with companies that are recognized by the Basel Action Network as reputable processors.
“I can say for certain,” says Hebert, “that all phones collected through CellCycle.ca are processed only in OECD countries.”
Phones that are identified as reusable or that contain reusable components are refurbished for reuse in the USA and sold to users in Central and South America, while non-reusable phones are processed in Sweden.
To offset the carbon generated by the manufacturing and recycling of each cell phone, CellCycle.ca uses a portion of the money earned from each cell phone collected to fund the planting of a tree seedling on public land. To date, many trees have been planted with a target of planting an additional 1,000 trees by fall.
With collection bins located at both Barrie Canadian Tire stores, the Barrie and Orillia campuses of Georgian College, and at three of the four Zehrs Markets stores in Barrie, CellCycle.ca has now diverted several hundred cell phones from landfill while preventing non-OECD country processing. Discussions with a national electronics retailer, Canada’s largest grocery chain, and a national bank are ongoing to establish a comprehensive, accessible and convenient network of locations where the public can dispose of cell phones on routine shopping trips rather than having to make special trips to recycle.
CellCycle.ca is seeking additional sites to host collection bins, offers custom-branded solutions and will support any cause of choice with a portion of proceeds generated. Ideal hosts include multi-tenant office complexes, multi-tenant residential buildings, fast-food outlets, post-secondary institutions, and mass merchants.
For more information, email email@example.com or visit www.cellcycle.ca