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The Expert

Cell-Phone Recycler

Gary Moore, 54, Senior Manager for Service and Repair, Nextel

Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page M03

SAVED BY THE BELL. I retired from my job with the Bell companies in 1998, after 30 years of service. I'd started out working for New England Telephone, the forerunner of the regional Bell companies -- as a janitor. I got that job when I was a college student, laid off from work and desperate. Then I climbed the ladder. By the time I left, I was working with land lines. But I was "officially" retired for only one day. The next, I went to work for Nextel. I've been with them for seven years now.

WASTE NOT. I joined Nextel to oversee the company's handset insurance program, which collects and refurbishes old cell phones. We accept both our phones and other manufacturers'. Then we either fix them or turn them into recyclable parts. Some become replacements for malfunctioning phones, some we donate, others are used internally by our own employees. If they can't be fixed, they become car bumpers, recycling bins -- we've even partnered with a company that takes our old batteries and transforms them into rechargeable 110-volt cells strong enough to charge a lawn mower. Last year alone, we recycled two million phones.

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UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU! If you start doing your spring cleaning this year and come across an old Motorola iDen phone, you might want to consider sending it to us. We'll refurbish it and send the proceeds to the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services Fund. To date, 123,000 phones have been donated to this cause, providing over $930,000 in support for military personnel and their families.

HOOKING UP. We provide consumers with an incentive for recycling. For sending back an old handset, current Nextel customers can receive a credit on their account ranging from $5 to $55. Our website (www.nextelbuyback.com) has a list of qualifying handsets and lets you print out a prepaid shipping label. If someone wants to donate other manufacturers' phones (only Nextel phones may be submitted through the buy-back process), just go to Nextel.com and locate our closest retail store. We collect 'em there.

HEY MR. POSTMAN. We only accept cell phones and their accessories, but we've received some fun and interesting packages through the mail by mistake. I think when people get busy, they get confused, and sometimes the prepaid postage doesn't make it on the right package. We've received toasters, bananas, legal contracts -- even wrapped Christmas gifts (not meant for me or my employees either). We always return them. But even the phones bring their surprises. Some of the more interesting ones we've received have included a cell phone that had a bullet through it and a few that had been run over, which must happen more often than you'd think. As told to Karen Hart

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