High-tech items recycled for charity

By Michael P. McConnell, Daily Tribune Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK - Two online marketing entrepreneurs are dialing up a hot idea to recycle old cell phones and other wireless items and raise money for charities in the process.

Dwight Zahringer, president of Trademark Productions in downtown Royal Oak, has established a new non-profit company called Recycling for Charities.

"I decided to do this last fall because there are so many people willing to donate old cell phones they no longer use," said Zahringer. "It makes us feel good, too. You feel a lot of good karma coming your way when you do things like this."

Dwight knows first-hand how often people now purchase new cell phones, Palm Pilots, PDAs, digital cameras, and pagers. "I had six old cell phones myself that were just sitting in my basement," he said.

Experts estimate there about 200 million active cell phones nationwide and about 500 million cell and mobile phones that are no longer in use.

The company launched its Web site, www.recyclingforcharities.com, on Wednesday and Zahringer said donations of 200 wireless phones and other items were received within 24 hours.

Recycling such items, which contain toxic elements and heavy metals, keeps them from ending up in landfills, he said.

Recycling for Charities typically brokers the used wireless items to Wireless Resource, a West Bloomfield company that refurbishes the used technology for resale in secondary markets, Zahringer said. "We split the money we get 50/50 with the charities designated by the donors," he said.

Dwight has invested about $25,000 in startup costs for the venture, which is a (501)c3 non-profit, the only recycler of this type in the nation that is a full non-profit.

Donors can go to the company Web site to select a charity and get a print-out of a receipt for tax-deduction purposes and a shipping label. The company is already lined up with about 50 different charitable organizations ranging from Ronald McDonald House Charities and American Red Cross to the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project in Ferndale, Michigan.

"As we continue to see a decrease in HIV prevention dollars from state and federal governments," said Michael Odom of MAPP, "it is imperative that we seek alternate routes of funding such as worthwhile organizations such as Recycling for Charities."

Non-profit groups and individuals can collect outmoded wireless items and send them to RFC.

Zahringer said RFC can also set up fund-raising programs with a school, church or scout troop. Marketing materials are available on the company's Web site, he added. "Instead of going out and selling candy, kids and their parents can get involved in recycling," Zahringer said.

RFC has also started a program to distribute drop-off containers for wireless items to be recycled. They already have 39 such containers at 10 St. Vincent de Paul locations in southeast Michigan.

"We'd eventually like to be in Wireless Giant stores and run fund-raisers for large charities," Zahringer said. "I believe we're the only non-profit out there doing this now."

Zahringer believes that the non-profit company is profitable in ways that transcend the bottom line. "It helps us to align ourselves with something that is positive," he said. {{/RFC}}

For information on recycling or donating wireless items visit RFC's Web site or call Contact: 866-630-7557