Cell Phone Recycling
at the Toronto Zoo
Young Nassir a Western lowland gorilla here at the Toronto Zoo

Your smartphone comes at a high cost to wildlife, but the Toronto Zoo PhoneApes program can help lessen that cost.

Coltan, a metallic ore, plays a crucial role in producing tantalum, a vital component in capacitors for electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops. This valuable resource is most concentrated and easily mined in the rainforests of the former Republic of the Congo, which also serve as a habitat for the endangered Lowland Gorilla.

Fortunately, there's a sustainable solution. By recycling old cell phones, tantalum can be re-used, reducing the demand for mining pure coltan in the Congo and helping preserve this delicate ecosystem.

Every time you hold your smartphone, you're carrying a piece of the vast and vanishing rainforests, the habitats of endangered species, including the Lowland Gorilla.

Discover why responsible recycling of your phone is not just a choice, but a crucial commitment to a sustainable future.

From the Rainforest
to your Phone
  • Unveiling the Hidden Journey of Your Devices:
    The Story of Coltan, Tantalum, and the Rainforest.
  • Coltan is mined from vast rainforest areas of the Congo, home to many threatened species, including the endangered Lowland Gorilla.
    The journey begins as the raw coltan is transported to a processing facility.
    Within this facility, the raw coltan undergoes a refining process to become pure tantalum.
    Tantalum, a vital component for capacitors, serves as the tiny powerhouse inside your devices.
    Trace the path from the rainforest to your pocket, where your cell phones and electronics carry this precious resource.
Answer the call of the wild
and recycle your cell phones
  1. Drop phones off on your next Toronto Zoo visit!
    • On site drop off locations:
      • Guest Relations, front entrance
      • Education/volunteer centre
      • Administrative Building - 361A Old Finch Avenue
      • Western Lowland Gorilla habitat, African Rainforest Pavilion

  2. Mail phones to:
    Toronto Zoo - Cell Phone Recycling Program C/O Manager, Conservation Programs & Environment, 361A Old Finch Avenue Toronto, Ontario M1B 5K7

  3. Email us for other arrangements
    [email protected]

  4. Live in Toronto? Drop phones off to a collection box near you!
    • Permanent collection boxes are located at:
    • City Hall
      100 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

      East York Civic Centre
      850 Coxwell Ave., East York, ON M4C 5R1

      Etobicoke Civic Centre
      399 The West Mall, Etobicoke, ON M9C 2Y2

      Metro Hall
      55 John St., Toronto, ON M5V 3C6

      North York Civic Centre
      5100 Yonge St., North York ON

      Scarborough Civic Centre
      150 Borough Drive, Scarborough, ON M1P 4N7

In Partnership With

Asked Questions
  • What is Cell Phone Recycling
  • Cell phone recycling encourages responsible waste management of electronic materials. The e-waste sector is growing rapidly, and the impacts include illegal and irresponsible mining, landfill restrictions and overuse, health problems in developing countries. Recycling of cell phones, and other small electronic devices helps reclaim valuable metals and reduces environmental social impacts.

  • How does cell phone recycling help conserve Gorillas and their habitats?
  • Coltan is a metallic ore used to produce the element tantalum. Tantalum, used in a light weight metal powder form, is able to hold a very high electrical charge. This makes it a vital element in creating the capacitors that control electric flow inside miniature circuit boards. Tantalum capacitors are used in almost all cell phones, laptops, pagers and other electronic devices.

    Coltan is most concentrated, and therefore most easily mined, in the rainforests of the former Republic of the Congo. Unfortunately, the endangered Lowland Gorilla also calls this spot home. By recycling old cell phones, tantalum can be re-used; lessening the demand to mine pure coltan in the Congo.

  • What happens to the other metals and parts of the phone?
  • All base elements, including arsenic and mercury, are refined out and reused via the commodities market.

  • Is my phone being recycled responsibly?
  • YES! The Toronto Zoo is serious about global protection of the environment, human impact and the socio-economic impact of e-waste disposal. When assessing a new recycling partner, we look for companies that are certified to the highest standards for operational and recycling excellence including R2-Responsible Recycling Practices, ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004, OHSAS 18001, ERRP and RQP. We also consider companies with local processing and recycling facilities to ensure all equipment is processed in Ontario and not sent overseas and base elements are sold using the local commodities market. Toronto Zoo is proud to partner with Greentec for all PhoneApes recycling. To learn more about the current recycler for our PhoneApes Cellphone program, please visit www.greentec.com.

  • Is it safe to donate my phone?
  • YES! Please remember to discontinue all service plans and wipe off all personal data! We provide 100% confidentiality and remove any data remaining on the phone.

  • Where are funds donated?
  • All money raised will go towards field conservation for Great Apes. Projects supported by the PhoneApes program have included: Goualougo Triangle Ape Project: Securing the Future of Gorillas and Chimpanzees in a Changing Landscape. Ape Action Africa: Mefou National Park, Mbeli Bai Gorilla Study, Nouabale-Ndoki Forest Reserve, Republic of Congo.

  • How many phones has the Toronto Zoo collected?
  • Since 2006, Toronto Zoo has been recognized as a top cell phone recycler among North American zoos, aquaria, and wildlife organizations, and a trusted leading cell phone recycler in the Greater Toronto Area and throughout Ontario. The Toronto Zoo collected over 28,128 phones between 2006 and 2022.

  • How do I get my own collection box?
  • We will provide your Ontario-based classroom, school, company or organization with your very own Phone Apes cell phone collection box & marketing material. Simply send us a request to [email protected]

  • Can an individual person donate their old phone?
  • YES! If you want to donate your old cellphones but are not near any collection location, you can drop your phone off directly at the Zoo at one of four locations listed above, or mail your old phone(s) to Conservation Programs & Environment, Toronto Zoo, 361A Old Finch Ave, Toronto, ON M1B 5K7.

  • Does the Toronto Zoo collect any other electronic waste in addition to cellular phones?
  • YES! To expand the awareness about the electronic industry and help support gorilla conservation in the wild, the Toronto Zoo along with their partners will host one to two E-waste Collection days at the Drop-off Loop for the Toronto Zoo. These events will be advertised on the Toronto Zoo’s Events Calendar.

  • Does the Toronto Zoo accept electronic waste any day of the year?
  • NO! Due to the size of other electronic items (TV, computer, monitor, laptop, radio, etc.), the Zoo will only accept general e-waste on the day of an E-waste Collection Event. The Toronto Zoo does not have the storage space to collect and hold these items for long periods of time. The PhoneApes‘ partner supports these e-waste collection days by picking up all donated items at the end of the event.

  • Other ways you can help protect gorillas and their habitat: