THE extent of damage in Haiti is indescribable. Pictures posted in the internet show collapsed buildings, dead people and a nation in disarray. It's difficult to imagine how big structures can fall down like dominoes. Was it design failure or sloppy construction supervision?

Anyway, the focus now is how to help the earthquake-ravaged country. As food and water supplies dwindle, Haitians are hungry and angry. Looters roam the streets, ransacking shops and taking anything of value. Help has to get there fast.

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As expected, appeal for help flooded the internet. Amidst all the fundraising schemes that are now going on, I noticed one unique program -a fund raising campaign with an environmental theme. It provides an opportunity for donors to help the victims while protecting the environment as well.

Willing donors who are cash-strapped themselves need not part with their hard-earned money. All they need to do is donate old cellphones, which they will dispose anyway. The fundraising scheme is called "Phones for Haiti", initiated by a company called ReCellular Inc., the world's largest recycler and reseller of used cellular phones and accessories.

The process is simple. The value of old phones sent to ReCellular will be donated to the American Red Cross. Sending the phones was also made convenient. They can be sent by mail using a prepaid mailing label which can be downloaded at www.phonesforhaiti.com. All phones are accepted, though newer phones will provide the most value to the charity - in some cases $100 or more.

This scheme has a big fund-generating potential. There are an estimated 130 million phones retired in the United States every year. If even a small percentage of them are sent to 'Phones for Haiti', it would contribute millions of dollars towards relief from the devastating earthquake.

On the environmental side of it, recycling of old cell phones is important. Discarded cell phones and other gadgets, also called E-waste or electronic waste, contain hazardous materials. They are not considered as ordinary household waste so they require special handling. They have to be sent to a DENR-accredited recycler.

Cell phones contain precious metals too. Apart from preventing toxic elements from contaminating the environment, valuable materials like gold and copper can be recovered. Imagine the amount of resources that can be saved and the volume of pollution that can be avoided from extraction to processing of these precious metals.

Last year, SM Pampanga in cooperation with Nokia, launched a cell phone recycling program. There are specially marked recycling bins in the mall where shoppers can drop their old phones. I hope this project will be sustained.

In the Philippines, the accredited E-waste recyclers that I know of are HMR Enviro-cycle which is Manila based and Semi-Recyclean Inc. which is located at Clark Special Economic Zone. There's no reason for old computers and TV sets to end up in landfill.