CORNER BROOK — If you see Vanessa Ford coming it might be a good idea to hide away your cellphone.
You see Ford is really into collecting cellphones, but it’s all for a good cause.
The Grade 6 student at Immaculate Heart of Mary School brought in between 20 and 30 used cellphones helping her school earn top honours in this year’s national Recycle My Cell School Challenge.
The challenge is a joint initiative of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board (MMSB). Fifty-five schools and nine post-secondary institutions across the country participated in the challenge, which was launched in October.
Immaculate Heart of Mary collected 1,300 cellphones. It was the most of the nearly 4,000 cellphones collected by participating schools and post-secondary institutions in the province and the most collected by a participating school nationally. It’s the second year in a row the school has received the provincial honour. Last year the school collected 450 cellphones.
Ford, 11, is an avid recycler and composter, so when her school decided to take part in the challenge she wanted to do everything she could to help.
“I thought it was important because it’s good for the environment. Because a lot of stuff was going to waste from cellphones that could be used again,” said Ford.
“If you can use it again it’s less stuff that has to go to waste.”
Ford said getting people to donate their used cellphones was actually quite easy.
“They thought it was a good thing that we were doing it instead of like letting them go to waste.”
Ford collected used cellphones from some of her cousins, from some of her dad’s friends and also had a few of her own around the house. And she’s quite proud of her school’s accomplishment.
“I think we did really good because a lot of people have old cellphones, and we’ve been doing it for two years and we’ve won for two years in a row.”
The school’s placing in the challenge was announced before the entire student body, staff and some family and friends on Wednesday morning. The school choir kicked off the event with a recycling song.
Environment and Conservation Minister Terry French told those gathered in the gymnasium it was not surprising to see schools in the province step up to the challenge again this year.
He said Immaculate Heart of Mary’s success shows the students at the school are true environmental leaders.
“Keeping cellphones and other electronic waste out of our local landfills helps protect our environment,” said French, “and a small effort on everyone’s part can make a big difference.”
Leigh Puddister, chair and chief executive officer of the MMSB, was quite enthusiastic in offering his congratulations to the school.
“You guys rock,” he said to loud applause.
Puddister said there are about a 1.5 billion cellphones around the world now and that most are only kept for a year or two.
He said these cellphones contain lead, copper and mercury and create a great hazard for the environment.
“The good news is that most of the things in cellphones are actually recyclable.”
The only problem is only one in 10 cellphones are now recycled. But Puddister said the 4,000 cellphones collected in the Newfoundland and Labrador will be taken apart and the materials used to produce new cellphones and other electronics.
“And that’s a big step,” he said adding it will keep harmful materials away from landfills.
The MMSB selected four regional winners from participating schools in this province. Each school will receive $1,000 from the MMSB to be used towards an environmental initiative of the school’s choice. Immaculate Heart of Mary plans to use the money for its model greenhouse project.
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association also awarded the school with $500 and a Samsung Reclaim phone with a one-year plan compliments of Bell Mobility.