Colorado State University Students Launch Cell Phone Drive in the Community

Used cell phones are worth more than their spare parts – the phones can help fund loans for low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world, says a group of Colorado State University students who will collect the phones in April.

Students will conduct a used cell phone drive called Phones 4 Loans as part of their Social and Sustainable Entrepreneurship class in the College of Business.

"These students wanted real impact they could see and measure, and the class project had three components – making money from cleaning up a problem, spending it on an effective program and building something that would last beyond the semester. By combining these elements, they came up with the idea of Phones4Loans," said Paul Hudnut, class instructor.

Recycling boxes have been placed in the dean’s offices of all colleges at Colorado State and in locations in Fort Collins. Specific locations can be found at

Phones can be recycled along with batteries and accessories through April 30.

"Fewer than 10 percent of cell phones are recycled," said Melanie Sloan, a student spokeswoman for Phones4Loans. "We want to help the environment and help those in need at the same time. Cell phones make up the fastest growing waste stream and can become hazardous to the environment and people if not properly disposed, since they contain substances such as lead, mercury and plastics."

All collected phones and accessories will be shipped to Collective Good, a Colorado-based non-profit organization that re-sells or recycles cell phones, with all profits paid to the charitable organization selected by Phones 4 Loans.

CSU students chose the charitable organization Kiva, a  popular internet service for microfinance loans in the developing world.  More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in developing countries and less than 5 percent of all private capital funding is aimed at these countries. The small loans provided by microfinance to low-income entrepreneurs in these countries, via Kiva, will work to correct that imbalance.  

Most  funds loaned by Kiva are repaid – Kiva boasts an impressive 99.86 percent repayment rate – which means that Phones 4 Loans proceeds will continue to help micro-entrepreneurs for years to come. The students will set up a social network site to make loan decisions and track borrowers once the class is over.

"Getting to apply what we learned in class to design and do this project has been a great way for us to learn by doing and to make a difference. We hope to collect 1,000 phones to fund our loan portfolio, and we’re on our way to meeting that: We collected 50 phones at the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association’s Environmental Film Festival," said Rachel Hanson, a member of the class.

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