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The government kicked off a campaign Wednesday urging consumers to take their old cell phones to collection points so their rare and precious metals can be recycled.

The campaign through July 7 is being conducted by several ministries with the aim of raising the recycling rate for mobile phones to 30 percent from the current 20 percent.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kunio Hatoyama and Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito appeared at a campaign event at the Bic Camera electronics store in Yurakucho, central Tokyo.

Similar events will be held in Yokohama and Kyoto, where collection boxes will be installed at municipal offices, officials of the two cities said.

The number of phones collected for recycling plummeted to 6.44 million units in 2007, from 11.71 million in 2003, according to an industry group.

According to analysts, many consumers keep their old cell phones to use as cameras even after buying replacements, and some people do not recycle their old handsets out of fear that the personal information they contain will be stolen.

To collect unused phones, NTT DoCoMo Inc. has set up collection boxes at convenience stores and its retail shops.

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