Unboxing a brand-new cellphone is exciting. But after peeling off that satisfyingly clingy plastic cover, you’re left with one question: What should you do with your old cellphone?
The last thing you should do is toss it in the trash. Once buried in a landfill, cellphones can leach chemicals into the ground, contaminating nearby water sources. Instead, learn where you can donate or recycle your old cellphone. No matter what kind of phone you have or how old it is, you can do a world of good by following these cellphone recycling tips.
First, Learn How to Wipe Your Cellphone Clean
Whether you have a basic “feature” phone (nearly 20 percent of us still do!) or a smartphone, the process is essentially the same. Open the settings menu and look for your phone’s factory reset option. You should find it pretty easily on a basic phone. For smartphones, you might have to click through a few different menus.
- On iPhones, head to: Settings > General > Reset > Erase all Content and Settings
- On Android phones, head to: Settings > System > Reset (or Backup & Reset) > Factory Data Reset > Reset Phone > Erase Everything
Make sure you back up anything you want to save using a cloud service or your phone’s built-in backup program. After deleting your personal data, remove the SIM card and deactivate your phone from your service provider’s network. You’re now ready to donate or recycle your phone.
Where to Donate Your Cellphone for Charity and Good Causes
ECO-CELL is on a mission to reuse and recycle as many cellphones as possible for the good of the environment. They partner with Credo Mobile to offer a free mail-in program for old cellphones that are then sold or recycled. Credo donates 100 percent of the proceeds from this program to nonprofit organizations, including environmental groups.
“We think it is unfair that the planet and its creatures must suffer for consumers to enjoy handheld technology,” says Eric Ronay, president of ECO-CELL. “That is why we designed a program focused on the environmental implications of cell phones AND offers people and organizations a way to be a part of the solution by recycling them.”
Zoos and nature centers throughout the country also work with ECO-CELL to provide drop-off locations for cellphone recycling, known as ECO-CELL Silverback partners. Why Silverback? “As strange as it might sound gorillas and cell phones are connected,” says Ronay. “Electronic manufacturing companies source materials found in gorilla habitats to manufacture cell phones.” You can find a drop-off location near you at ECO-CELL.
Cell Phones for Soldiers
Help out a soldier overseas with Cell Phones for Soldiers donation program. Despite the name, this group doesn’t send your donated cellphone to a soldier. Instead, they sell or recycle your old cellphone, the funds from which provides prepaid calling cards and emergency funding for military families. Visit Cell Phones for Soldiers to learn how to donate your old cell phone.
This nonprofit focuses on improving the quality of health care in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Toward that goal, they resell newer phones to fund the purchase of up to ten new phones for health care workers. These phones help them track the spread of diseases and monitor medicine inventory. Older cellphones are recycled through a certified electronics recycler. Check out Medic Mobile to learn where you can send your old phone.
Where to Recycle Your Old Cellphone
Retailers often run their own electronics recycling programs to ensure old devices are kept out of landfills. Best Buy, in fact, runs one of the largest such programs. “Best Buy operates the largest retail collection program in the country,” writes Paul Moore in a recent post on the company’s blog. “Having collected and responsibly disposed of more than 1.5 billion pounds of electronics and appliances. And there’s no charge to recycle most items.”
For cellphones specifically, Best Buy offers a trade-in value estimator that can tell you exactly how much your old phone is worth. Even if yours has no reported value, you can still send it in or drop it off at your local store for recycling.
With over 350 kiosks around the country, it’s a fair assumption that there’s at least one phone recycling machine in your city. Using one of EcoATM’s kiosks is simple: Enter your phone into the machine, follow the instructions on the screen and, if your phone has a trade-in value, you’ll receive cash back. Visit their site to find a kiosk near you.
Local Recycling Centers
Governments at the city or county level typically provide electronics recycling programs or offer resources for finding local recyclers in your area. Earth911’s recycling database can help you pin down a drop-off location near you.
Over 350,000 cellphones are disposed of every day, and its up to you to either reuse or recycle your old phones. With so many options, you can easily find a way to give your phone new life.
Have some other gadgets tucked away in a closet somewhere? Use our guide to learn how to dispose of all your electronics responsibly.