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Senior calls for old phones in zoo challenge

Photo courtesy of Bennett Heyn.

Photo courtesy of Bennett Heyn.

PHONE A FRIEND. Senior Bennet Heyn collects old cell phones in bins at the SHS front office, Blue Ash Elementary, the Blue Ash Recreation Center, and more. These phones can be reused and recycled to reduce the demand of coltan, a mineral found in the habitats of endangered gorillas. The Cincinnati Zoo’s annual Go Bananas Challenge asks community members to gather as many of these devices as possible.

Jenna Bao, Sycamore High School

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Flip phones are virtually obsolete today, but they are still taking up space in cabinets everywhere. The Cincinnati Zoo’s “Go Bananas!” Challenge seeks to use the old devices to save the environment.

Senior Bennett Heyn is currently participating in the challenge through the Environmental Club.

“Last year in architecture class, we did a watershed project. I got the idea for a cell phone recycling project to save water and help our environment. I was looking up other stuff to use these cell phones for, and I found the Go Bananas Challenge,” Heyn said.

The zoo is challenging schools and individuals to collect as many old phones as possible, with a total competition-wide goal of gathering 25,000 phones. These devices are sent to Eco-Cell, a company in Louisville that refurbishes and resells the devices or recycles their parts.

Phones, chargers, and earbuds can be dropped off for recycling at the zoo anytime, but only phones count in this contest.

“I think this is targeting old cell phones and flip phones rather than iPhones. These old phones still have value but people are just throwing them away or keeping them at their houses,” Heyn said.

The reason why this pertains to the zoo is that, coltan, an ore mined in habitats for endangered African gorillas, is used in cell phone production. Reducing the demand for coltan may reduce the threat these animals face.

“We can raise awareness about how the Western Lowland gorillas are going extinct and how we can do something about it by collecting and recycling…to save precious minerals,” Heyn said.

As for Heyn’s plan, he has set up nine collection bins at SHS, Blue Ash Elementary, and around the community with the help of Environmental Club. Additionally, he is in the process of communicating with Kings Island in regards to getting the cell phones that have fallen off of rides.

He started in June and July of 2017 with a collection bin at the Blue Ash Recreation Center and got 30 cell phones there. He has gotten about 15 phones from school and hopes that having a promotional newsletter placed on the district site will bring in more.

“I’m trying to figure out how many phones it took to win the competition last year and the year before. A rough goal for this year is anywhere from 600 to 1000. It’d be great if I could do that,” Heyn said.

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Showcasing great student journalism from members of the SNO Network
Senior calls for old phones in zoo challenge