You can bring old smartphones, tablets to the Virginia Zoo. Here’s why

(Southside Daily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)
(Southside Daily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)

NORFOLK — The Virginia Zoo wants your old smartphones, tablets, adapters and chargers as part of a new technology recycling initiative that will help to protect wildlife habitats.

The zoo is partnering with ECO-CELL, a family-owned business in Louisville, Kentucky, to recycle electronics that contain rare minerals and metals, like tantalum, according to a news release from the zoo.

Tantalum comes from coltan, a metallic ore that is mined in the African Congo. The mining destroys habitats and threatens animals like the Eastern bongo and yellow-backed duiker, both of which can be seen at the Virginia Zoo.

Additionally, disposing of those items in landfills can lead to the minerals leaching into the soil and water sources, zoo officials said.

By recycling these electronics, the zoo reduces the amount of the new minerals that need to be mined. This helps protect many endangered species’ habitats, reduces environmental stress and deters toxic waste from landfills.

“Litter is a major environmental concern but not many people know that old or broken electronics make up more than two percent of the world’s waste,” said Greg Bockheim, the zoo’s executive director. “Our new recycling initiative helps animals and their habitats internationally but will also educate members of our community of the importance of not tossing out electronics before checking if they can be repurposed or recycled.”

The project was made possible through Keep Virginia Beautiful’s “30 in 30 Green Grants.”

The zoo received $1,000 in funding and used the donation to acquire a weather-proof and secure collection bin for the electronics, officials said.

The ECO-CELL collection box is located outside of the zoo’s main entrance near the Zoo Gift Shop.

For more information on accepted donations, click here.

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John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.