T passengers may now deposit old cell phones in this box at North Station. Photo by Erin Baldasarri/Metro
Boston-area commuters can now simultaneously contribute to the community’s environmental sustainability and provide the U.S. military service men and women the ability to connect with loved ones by simply dropping their old cell phones into collection boxes at the MBTA.
On Friday, the T installed two drop boxes at North Station’s commuter rail concourse, receptacles that T will collect cell phones for the non-profit organization Cell Phones for Soldiers.
The charity was founded in 2004 by Norwell siblings Robbie and Brittany Bergquist, who were 12 and 13 at the time.
The MBTA started internally collecting cell phones for the charity in 2012, and has since racked up over 4,000 phones and provided 45,000 minutes of talk time for soldiers overseas, according to MBTA Sustainability Specialist Timothy Lasker.
Considering the benefit, T officials figured it was time to spread the opportunity to its passengers.
“It’s really a shot in the dark. We don’t know how many [phones] we’ll collect. We’re just hoping to really encourage people to do it, but we haven’t opened it up to the public before, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Lasker.
The drop boxes will be at North Station’s commuter rail concourse for two months, and then will be rotated at two-month intervals to South Station, Back Bay Station, then back to North Station.
“We found that when you have a drop box like this, and it is there all the time, it becomes part of the wood work. If we move it around, people will hopefully pay attention,” said Lasker, who said the T will spread the word about the program on social media and by word of mouth.
The cell phones will go to a company that refurbishes them, then sends money to provide pre-paid calling cards with phone minutes for soldiers overseas.
Since launching in 2004, the homegrown project has prevented more than 11 million cell phones from ending up in landfills, and has provided more than 204 million minutes of free talk time for service men and women.
In July 2012, the Bergquist family launched a new program, Helping Heroes Home, which will provide emergency funds for returning veterans to alleviate communication challenges as well as physical, emotional and assimilation hardships.
"Since starting Cell Phones for Soldiers, we've wanted to create a program that would allow us to serve veterans here at home," said Brittany Bergquist on the project’s website. 'Helping Heroes Home' is that solution. It allows us to quickly amend a difficult situation and restore some peace of mind and support."