Maine’s five year old mandate on cell phone retailers to take back used phones at no cost to customers may soon be scrapped.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed removing the mandate during a meeting with the state’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee last month.

In response, the committee voted to report out on the request through a bill that will allow public hearings on the issue.

According to a report provided by the DEP’s Sustainability Unit, more than 144,000 used cell phones were collected by service providers in the first four years following the law’s inception. This number does not include independent retailers, or estimates for the number of phones collected in 2012.

According to state-wide media reports, the recycling law — originally sponsored by former State Rep. Christopher Babbidge, D-Kennebunk — is said to be aimed at protecting the public and the environment from toxic chemical exposure resulting from improper cell phone disposal.

Taking effect in January of 2008, the law bans consumers in Maine from disposing of used cell phones by throwing them in the trash, according to the DEP website.

During the committee meeting, the DEP’s Director of the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, Melanie Loyzim, said that the current strength of the market for refurbished phones is enough incentive to recycle. Loyzim also said in a subsequent interview that removing the mandate offers an opportunity “to get rid of a regulatory provision.”

Audry Jones, an authorized dealer for Verizon at Triple A Cellular Outlet based out of Unity, Maine, said that she collects between 50 and 100 cell phones annually. The phones, according to Ms. Jones are then shipped to The Wireless Alliance, a cell phone recycling company in Boulder, CO.

When asked if the mandate was seen as more of a burden or as a benefit to her business, Jones explained that all aspects of the operation are funded by The Wireless Alliance, and said, “Retailers love it because it brings business.”

Jones said all proceeds she receives from The Wireless Alliance for collecting and shipping the used cell phones go back to the community by way of charity. According to Jones, some of the contributions she’s made include donating funds to her local high school, contributing to programs for domestic violence, and contributing to programs dedicated to supporting U.S. troops.