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As holidays bring new toys, recycle the outdated ones

LAWRENCEVILLE

In a few days, many families will take down their Christmas trees and haul them to a local recycler. Returning the holiday evergreen to nature is an annual event for many environmentally conscious people across Gwinnett.

But a lesser known national recycling program involves salvaging consumer electronics - a cause that takes on even more importance this Christmas as millions of consumers awake today to find new computers, iPods and cell phones under their tree.

In recent years, the consumer electronics industry is trying to reduce the pervasiveness of environmentally sensitive materials in landfills, including the mercury and lead that often come from computers, cell phones and other gadgets and gizmos.

While it hasn't reached the level of popularity Christmas tree recycling enjoys, "it's getting there," said Caroline Dietz, spokesman for Dell Inc., which offers a program to salvage old computers.

"It's about raising awareness," Dietz said.

Recycling Christmas trees taps into the holiday spirit of giving - in this case, helping the earth. But recycling electronics needs to be a year-round effort, said Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful Director Connie Wiggins.

"It's not something we need to think about just during the holidays," she said.

Most wireless carriers offer recycling programs including Metro PCS, which provides a donation to The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International for every cell phone collected. The Dian Fossey Fund is Zoo Atlanta's partner for gorilla conservation.

"Recycling is an industrywide initiative, Metro PCS Mike Loverde said. "It may take consumers, publications, or the companies themselves, but we are going to get a groundswell of support for these programs. I'm not sure what it will take, but I think it will eventually happen."

For consumers whose electronics suddenly become obsolete this Christmas morning, here's a list of recycling options:

Cell phones

•www.cellforcash.com., which has sold

$1 million used cell phones this year.

•www.zooatlanta.org/conservation_

recycle_cell.htm, which partners with Zoo Atlanta for gorilla conservation.

•www.wirelessfundraiser.com; provides cash to nonprofit organizations that collect and send in old cell phones.

•www.911cellphonebank.com; donates about 1,000 phones a month to law enforcement and other agencies for emergency use.

Computers/Electronics

•www.dell.com/recycling

•Metro Laser - Tucker (printers and fax machines), 4679 Hugh Howell Road, Suite F, 770-938-1500

•Free Bytes P. O. Box 550371 Lindbergh Plaza, Suite D1000, Atlanta, 404-846-8414. Requests a $10-$20 donation for systems older than five years. Call to schedule a drop-off.

•Marc/5R Ltd. 2445 Stone Mountain Lithonia Road. Phone: 770-482-1744

•Materials for the Arts, 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. Phone: 404-817-6815. MFA is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the city of Atlanta, collecting material for distribution to the arts community. Accepts only working televisions, computers and peripherals, stereos, radios and VCRs.

•MicroSeconds 3505 Gwinnett Place Drive, Duluth. Phone: 770-232-1011. MicroSeconds are retail stores buying used personal computers, printers, software, memory, drives, monitors and most other components. They only accept working, IBM-compatible equipment running at 233 MHz or faster. Call first for details.

•Project Reboot, 4900 Lewis Road, Stone Mountain. Phone: 770-491-0198. Project Reboot is a nonprofit affiliated with the Georgia Department of Labor's Tools for Life program and Touch the Future Inc. Donated systems are refurbished and distributed to people with disabilities at no charge for basic systems. Call first for details.

•Zentech, 1417 Mayson St., Atlanta.

Phone: 404-876-0163. $10 charge per computer, monitor or printer.

Other sites

•gwinnettcb@gwinnettcb.org, Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful. Phone: 770-822-5187

•www.nrc-recycle.org/default.htm