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Action for Apes Challenge

The Action for Apes challenge is an annual contest hosted by the Houston Zoo to see which school or community organization can recycle the most handheld electronics.

Extended Through September 2020


We know each of our participating organizations are likely facing daily changes as we all work to keep our students, staff and ourselves healthy. In recognition of closures and cancellations, we feel it is appropriate to suspend the 2020 Action for Apes campaign until September of this year. We are not just committed to a healthy future for gorillas, but a healthy future for all of us; and, we recognize that there are many critical priorities for each of us and our community partners to address.

With that being said, we will leave it up to your organization to decide whether your participation will stop now (or by the end of this school year), or whether you’d like to continue collecting devices through September 2020.  If you would like to stop collecting now, please contact  If we do not hear from you by Wednesday, April 1, we will include you in the campaign when it reopens in September.

Action for Apes Challenge Registration Form

Register Today and Join the Challenge! CLICK HERE

By recycling these used items such as cell phones with the Houston Zoo, you help protect animals like chimpanzees and gorillas that live in areas where cell phone materials are mined.

You are always welcome to bring any used handheld to recycle – we have a drop off bin conveniently located just outside our main entrance gate next to the Guest Services office.

Q & A

How does this help save animals like gorillas and chimpanzees?

A material called tantalum is found in almost every cell phone, as well as in other handheld electronics such as tablets. This metal comes from the ground in Central Africa, which happens to be where animals like chimpanzees and gorillas live. When the metal is taken from these habitats to be used in electronics, the homes of chimps, gorillas and an array of other animals become disrupted and these animal populations decrease.

Where does my recycled phone go?

The materials in the electronics can be reused instead of mining new minerals from the ground in Central Africa.

When you recycle at the Houston Zoo, we return it to a company called Eco-Cell that sells the individual parts of the phone so that they can be reused. Any proceeds then go to conservation efforts to help save animals in the wild.

Who can participate?

Any school, business, organization, or scout group can participate. Simply complete the registration form at the bottom of this page and start your recycling campaign! All qualified items collected by April 30, 2020 will be recycled through the company Eco-Cell.

How do I sign my school or organization up?

Fill out the online registration form at the top of this page and begin collecting! Get the word out about the challenge to others in your school or organization by creating posters, hanging up the content provided by the Zoo, spreading the word and having fun saving animals in the wild!

What if I just want to recycle my phone but not join the challenge?

You are always welcome to bring any used handheld to recycle – we have a drop off bin conveniently located just outside our main entrance gate next to the Guest Services office.

Art For the Winning Organization

The school or organization that recycles the most by April 30, 2020 will win a one-of-a-kind painting done by one of the Houston Zoo’s gorilla or chimpanzee troops! (See an example to the left!) The painting can be hung at your institution as a reminder of your efforts to protect chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild.

What are the Contest Rules?


All participating institutions must register online. Once registered, you will receive an e-mail during the campaign providing you with information to receive your free shipping labels for your school or community organization!


Schools and organizations begin by creating your own recycling bin and decorating it with Houston Zoo promotional materials as well as any artwork designed by participants.


All items must be collected by April 30, 2020. Only those qualified handheld electronics collected by that date will be counted in your total. Cell phone accessories (Bluetooth, chargers) will not count in the total but can be recycled in the challenge. Remember every little bit helps!


Participating institutions will ship their phones directly to Eco-Cell using a provided shipping label e-mailed to you, postmarked on or before April 30, 2020. Eco-Cell will count the qualified items to determine the winner.


The school or organization that recycles the most by April 30, 2020 will receive a unique painting done by one of the Zoo’s gorilla or chimpanzee troops. Both the first and second place schools/organizations will receive recognition on our Houston Zoo Facebook pages and social media outlets.


The Houston Zoo will announce the Action for Apes 2020 winners no later than June 1, 2020.

You can collect and recycle any of the following:

  • Cell phones
  • Smart phones
  • iPods or other MP3 players
  • iPads or other tablets
  • Wifi hot spots
  • Handheld gaming devices
  • GPS
  • Electronic accessories such as chargers, blue tooth headsets, etc. (These items do not count towards your challenge number.)

Before donating your devices:

  1. Make sure you terminate your service or switch your contract to a new phone.
  2. Clear any personal data from the by removing the SIM card or manually removing the information.
  3. On most handheld electronics, you can find “Reset” under “Settings.”
  4. Turn your electronic off, if the battery is still charged.

Video: Action for Apes

How local students are participating in Action for Apes, and how you can too!

Printables for Promoting Your Campaign

Print these PDFs and post them around your school or organization to get the word out about recycling cell phones:

Campaign Posters

Campaign Recycling Box

Year-Long Posters

Parent Letter
Parent Letter – English
Parent Letter – Spanish
Editable_Parent Letter – English
Editable_Parent Letter – Spanish

Questions? Contact