Bennett Heyn, 18, of Cincinnati, Ohio, a senior at Sycamore High School, launched a cell phone recycling campaign in his community to help preserve gorilla habitats in Africa, keep harmful chemicals out of landfills, and show people that even simple steps can make a difference in preserving the environment. Bennett began his project after learning that lowland gorillas in Africa are being threatened with extinction because their habitat is increasingly being mined for coltan, a black metallic ore used to make capacitors in cell phones. “I want to increase the supply of coltan by collecting cell phones so there won’t be a demand for it,” said Bennett. “With lower demand for coltan, the mining in Africa will decrease and the Western Lowland Gorillas won’t go extinct.”
After researching the problems associated with non-recycled cell phones, Bennett set a goal of collecting 2,000 unneeded phones. He worked with the administrations of all seven schools in his school district to bring his campaign to their students, and then purchased eight recycling bins to place at each school and the district office. “The hardest part of my project is staying in touch with each school to figure out collection dates,” said Bennett. Another objective of Bennett’s campaign is to enter and win a cell phone recycling competition run by the Cincinnati Zoo that would award his school district with a sizable cash prize if he collects the most phones. Regardless, he says he’s committed for the long term. “I think of my project as a long-distance race and not a sprint,” he said, noting that he hopes his school’s environmental club will continue his campaign after he graduates.