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Have you heard about coltan?

Are you asking Santa for a new cell phone this year? It is time for an upgrade after all. You need to stay up to date on all the cool new features you could have at your fingertips before the next earth-shattering upgrade comes out in a couple months …

Before you get too sucked into your new electronic device, though, we just ask you to not forget about your old phone – that is, don’t forget to recycle it! Just because you aren’t spending every waking minute with it anymore doesn’t mean it’s a worthless piece of junk.

Many cell phones and other electronic devices contain a mineral called tantalum, which comes from the ore coltan (columbite-tantalite). Tantalum is used to make tantalum capacitors, which are used in all sorts of electronic devices from phones to electric vehicle batteries. As you can imagine, with our society practically revolving around electronic devices, the demand for coltan is incredibly high.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the global production of coltan comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a war-torn country that is still unstable with violent conflicts and humanitarian challenges. Mining for coltan and other desirable materials have funded these wars and conflicts, and mining has become one of the only “profitable” sources of income.

On top of humanitarian problems, mining is destroying ecosystems across the Democratic Republic of Congo. Critically endangered gorilla populations are being wiped out as their habitats are being destroyed, and poachers are hunting them for the illegal commercial bushmeat trade. Eastern lowland gorillas have declined by as much as 90 percent in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But you can help! Your old cell phones and other electronic devices can be recycled thanks to companies like ECO-CELL. ECO-CELL will work to either find your device a new home, or if the device is truly obsolete, they can properly recycle it. Recycling reduces the demand for coltan, and hopefully save or improve both non-human and human lives in Africa.

You can find out how to mail in your old devices here, or, if you’re planning on visiting the Zoo, we have a couple drop boxes where you can say goodbye to your old phone. ECO-CELL will accept cell phones, tablets, MP3 players and iPods, adapters and chargers and earbuds.

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl