Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Shelters give new life to unwanted gadgets

By Andrea Mason
(Port Huron, Mich.) Times Herald

Chris Farnsworth of Safe Horizons, a shelter in Port Huron, Mich., collects used cell phones and distributes them to survivors of domestic abuse. The phones are programmed to dial 911 and connect to state police.

TONY PITTS | Gannett News Service

spacer spacer

Now that the holiday season is over, there's the problem of what to do with all those outdated, unwanted cell phones, computers and other gadgets lying around the house.

They've been replaced with nifty new gifts of gadgetdom, but that doesn't mean old technology needs to be sent to the trash heap. Try the recycle bin.

Organizations such as Freecycle and local charities such as the Safe Horizons shelter for survivors of domestic abuse in Port Huron, Mich., can put old electronics to good use.

Many of the phones donated to the shelter are given to domestic abuse survivors. The memory cards are erased, and the phones are programmed to dial 911 and connect to the state police. The calls then are rerouted to local dispatch centers.

"We probably have hundreds (of old phones) out there," says Chris Farnsworth, the shelter's community outreach legal advocacy manager.

Those phones too old to be reprogrammed are sold to be refurbished, she says. That money helps the shelter with other programs or to buy other refurbished phones.

Cell phones are far from the only technology useful to shelters such as Safe Horizons. The shelter accepts anything from clothing to computers.

A Verizon Wireless program, HopeLine, also provides phones to shelters. Recipients use the phones to call their children's schools, their jobs or potential employers, Farnsworth says.

Wireless Toyz in Port Huron is a collection point for donated phones. Store manager Angelo Calderone says when people buy a new phone, they are given the option of donating their old one.

The chain supports the Special Olympics as well as local shelters, Calderone says.

The number of U.S. cell phone users could be as high as 200 million, with each cell phone being used for 18 months, on average. Cell phones, computers and other electronics contain potentially dangerous chemicals such as mercury, arsenic, lead, lithium ion and cadmium; dumping them in landfills is illegal.

Verizon and other cell phone service providers accept phones, chargers, headsets and any other accessories for recycling or refurbishing at their stores, and there are dozens of sites online that tell donors where they can give old electronics. The federal Environmental Protection Agency also has a comprehensive Web site that includes rules, advice and links to donor sites.

The Yahoo group Freecycle allows members to offer or ask for just about anything anyone could want or give away. That includes cell phones, computers and furniture.

The guiding rule of the group, according to its Web site, is "Everything posted must be free, legal and appropriate for all ages."


  • www.freecycle.org, Freecycle

  • www.safehorizonsmi.org, Safe Horizons shelter, Port Huron, Mich.

  • www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/aboutUs/communityservice/hopeLine.jsp, Verizon Wireless HopeLine

  • www.nrc-recycle.org/resour ces/electronics/index.htm, Electronics Recycling Initiative

  • www.epa.gov, Environmental Protection Agency