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New Electronics Recycling Stations at the Zoo, Garden and Aquarium

Join the ABQ BioPark in making a difference for gorillas, ocean animals and other wildlife by recycling your cell phone and other electronic gadgets

August 22, 2022 - Mining for minerals like coltan, used in cell phones and other electronic devices to help store electricity, is destroying gorilla habitat in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here, the Grauer’s gorilla is critically endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. This same type of mineral extraction is now endangering our oceans with the emergence of deep-sea mining, which threatens wildlife such as sea turtles, octopuses and coral.

We all want the latest and greatest upgrades on our cell phones and electronic devices, but, “When we have something as common and useful as a cell phone, we tend not to give consideration to the environmental impacts of how it is produced,” says Patrick Horley, an ABQ BioPark aquarist. Those impacts include putting already delicate ecosystems—and the animals that inhabit them—at further risk.

“Prime gorilla habitat also happens to be prime locations for coltan mines,” Horley says. “Gorillas are at risk due to habitat loss caused by clearing of lands for agricultural and livestock use. The problem is exacerbated by mining and poor environmental regulations in their area.” And it’s hard to predict the far-reaching environmental impacts of deep-sea mining, which is still in its exploratory stages.

Making a Difference

Cell phone recycling is an easy way to make a difference because it helps reduce the amount of mineral extraction needed to produce our electronic devices.

“It is our responsibility as a conservation-based facility to make any efforts that we can and to educate the public about the impacts their choices have on the world at large,” Horley says.

That’s why he spearheaded a new project at the ABQ BioPark that will help solve the problem by providing electronics drop-off boxes at the Zoo, Aquarium and Botanic Garden. All you need to do is drop off your used cell phone, tablet, iPod, MP3 player, or e-reader here, and we will do the rest! The ABQ BioPark will send your devices to ECO-CELL, a company that specializes in electronics recycling.

“It is my hope that this project will get people to rethink their upgrade,” Horley says. “If people cannot maintain their old phone because it is irreparably damaged, recycling it is the next best option. Any tiny bit of coltan that is recycled is coltan that does not need to be mined from these delicate areas. That brings us one tiny step closer to protecting the remaining gorilla population.”

Drop off boxes are located inside the administration building at front gates of the Zoo, inside the entrance of the Aquarium and in the Botanic Garden courtyard. Cell phones and other electronic devices can be dropped off at any of these locations during normal business hours, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. To protect your personal information, please “wipe” your device by resetting it to factory settings before dropping it off.

This is part of a larger Association of Zoos and Aquariums initiative called Gorillas on the Line. Other participating zoos include the Detroit Zoo and Zoo Atlanta. The ABQ BioPark would like to thank Desert Plastics for providing material to help construct the drop off boxes.