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How Should I Dispose of My Old Cell Phone? Eco-Friendly & Secure Methods Explained

Disposing of your old cell phone responsibly is crucial for environmental protection. Consider recycling, donating, or selling it. Recycling programs prevent toxic waste, while donating can aid those in need. Selling offers a return on investment. Each choice has a positive impact. Curious about the best option for you? Let's explore the benefits and steps for each disposal method.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Considering the staggering statistic that Americans discard about 151 million smartphones annually, as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it's crucial to contemplate what should I do with my old cell phone. 

Disposing of cell phones in landfills is not only often illegal due to the hazardous materials in batteries, but it also squanders valuable resources. The EPA emphasizes that recycling one million cell phones can recover 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, and 75 pounds of gold. Therefore, before relegating your outdated device to a drawer or the garbage, consider the environmentally sound and philanthropic alternatives available for your mobile phone's next chapter.

Many local organizations or charities collect old or unwanted cell phones.
Many local organizations or charities collect old or unwanted cell phones.

You certainly don’t need to pay to recycle an old cell phone, and in fact, most companies that recycle them get paid to do so. This had led to many charities making a small amount of money by collecting old phones. There are large organizations that will take unwanted phones, but you might also want to think locally.

Many schools and local charities now have recycling programs, and they do make a little bit on each donation. The saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure certainly applies. If you can’t find a large cell phone recycling program in your area, you might consider starting a small local one, perhaps for a local public school.

Disposing of old cell phones in the trash is illegal in some places because the batteries may contain toxic chemicals.
Disposing of old cell phones in the trash is illegal in some places because the batteries may contain toxic chemicals.

Check first, since so many schools have gotten the jump on recycling them already. As people move to bigger and better phones, or smaller and better phones, there are plenty of old cell phones just waiting for a place to land, and smart schools have provided that place. Local charities may also offer computer recycling or battery recycling too.

You might also want to hang onto any accessories that you have, since things like chargers or covers can often be used with a new phone. Continuing to use accessories in good shape makes smart economic sense.

FAQ on Old Cell Phone Disposal

How can I safely dispose of my old cell phone?

Old cell phones can be donated to charity for recycling.
Old cell phones can be donated to charity for recycling.

To safely dispose of your old cell phone, consider recycling it through a certified e-waste recycler. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using certified e-Stewards or R2 recyclers, as they adhere to strict environmental and data security standards. You can also check if the phone's manufacturer or your mobile carrier offers a take-back program. Before recycling, ensure you've wiped all personal data from the device.

Is it safe to throw away an old cell phone in the trash?

Salvagers and refurbishers buy old cell phones and either strip them and sell the components, or fix them and sell them at low cost.
Salvagers and refurbishers buy old cell phones and either strip them and sell the components, or fix them and sell them at low cost.

Throwing an old cell phone in the trash is not recommended. Cell phones contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, and cadmium, which can leach into the environment if not disposed of properly. According to the EPA, recycling one million cell phones can recover 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium. Always opt for recycling to prevent environmental harm and recover valuable materials.

Can I donate my old cell phone?

Go online to find a charity that will take the phone.
Go online to find a charity that will take the phone.

Yes, donating your old cell phone is a great way to extend its life and benefit others. Many organizations accept old phones for charitable causes or to provide communication tools for those in need. Before donating, make sure to erase all personal data and perform a factory reset. Check with local charities, shelters, or schools to see if they have a need for mobile devices.

What should I do with my old cell phone before recycling it?

Old cell phones cannot be thrown away in household trash for curbside pickup.
Old cell phones cannot be thrown away in household trash for curbside pickup.

Before recycling your old cell phone, take the following steps: First, back up any important data like contacts, photos, and messages. Next, perform a factory reset to erase all personal information—consult your phone's manual or manufacturer's website for instructions. Remove any SIM or SD cards and recycle or destroy them if not needed. Lastly, if the battery is removable, separate it from the phone as it may need to be recycled separately.

Are there any financial benefits to disposing of my old cell phone properly?

Properly disposing of your old cell phone can have financial benefits. Some recycling programs offer monetary incentives, discounts on future purchases, or charitable donation receipts for tax deductions. Additionally, by recycling, you contribute to the recovery of precious metals and other materials, which can reduce the need for mining and ultimately lower production costs for new devices. This can have a positive impact on the economy and the environment.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent EasyTechJunkie contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent EasyTechJunkie contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon349749

I don't know what to do with my phone charger. Can I recycle that locally?

XanderP

An old blog post, but even more relevant today when you sell cell phones. The phone recycling industry in the UK has become bigger and bigger over the past few years and is now starting to really take off in America. The more we recycle, the better our world will be.

anon45108

You can drop off, mail or arrange for pick-up all of your obsolete electronics to All Green Electronics Recycling. They service the entire continental U.S. and make sure that everything is handled responsibly - memories are deleted, nothing is exported and toxic materials do not go into landfills.

anon41250

I rolled my phone number to my new cell phone but can't remove the number from my old cell. How can I prevent that number from going with that cell phone? I would like to recycle it.

EBecker247

Are some accessories hazardous waste and others not?

Grammmmm

What about old cell phone chargers that don't fit your new phone? How can we dispose of them? Can they just be thrown in the trash, or is there a way to recycle them? Thanks for any help - we have 3 of them!

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    • Many local organizations or charities collect old or unwanted cell phones.
      By: nick barounis
      Many local organizations or charities collect old or unwanted cell phones.
    • Disposing of old cell phones in the trash is illegal in some places because the batteries may contain toxic chemicals.
      By: nick barounis
      Disposing of old cell phones in the trash is illegal in some places because the batteries may contain toxic chemicals.
    • Old cell phones can be donated to charity for recycling.
      By: slasnyi
      Old cell phones can be donated to charity for recycling.
    • Salvagers and refurbishers buy old cell phones and either strip them and sell the components, or fix them and sell them at low cost.
      By: Xuejun li
      Salvagers and refurbishers buy old cell phones and either strip them and sell the components, or fix them and sell them at low cost.
    • Go online to find a charity that will take the phone.
      By: Rawpixel
      Go online to find a charity that will take the phone.
    • Old cell phones cannot be thrown away in household trash for curbside pickup.
      By: RTimages
      Old cell phones cannot be thrown away in household trash for curbside pickup.