October’s Recycling Project: Cell Phones

E.B. Boyd by E.B. Boyd | September 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment
topic: Green Living

This is the second project in a series of four year-end recycling projects. Last month’s project was printer cartridges. Next month’s is freecycling; December’s is computers.

Recycling your cell phone is one of those projects where there’s simply no excuse. Cell phone manufactures, wireless carriers, charities, and others have all made the process so easy, it should barely be an afterthought. That’s good news for me. I’ve got three phones—from three different manufacturers and two different carriers—that need to find new homes.

Step 1: Erase your data

Erasing data can take up to half an hour, which means very few phone recyclers are going to take the time to delete all the contacts, text messages, and photos you have stored in your phone, much less any sensitive information, like bank accounts or passwords. I know this first-hand. I got a refurbished phone once, and, sure enough, it had someone else’s texts on it.

The good news is that Recellular.com provides data erasing instructions for a slew of phones. You just enter your phone manufacturer, model number, and your email address, and they’ll email you the instructions.

If your phone is not on the list, search the Web site of your phone manufacturer or wireless carrier for instructions.

Step 2: Decide: Recycle, Donate to Charity, or Sell

Decide how much time you want to invest in this process, because there are a zillion options out there.

  • Recycle at a store: If you want to take the easy way out, you just can toss your phone into a recycling bin at Best Buy, Office Depot, or your closest wireless store.
  • Send back to the manufacturer or carrier: Most manufacturers and carriers will take back your phone. Some even take back other companies’ phones. And in some cases, as with the Buyback program at Sprint, you can even get cash credit for certain models.
  • Donate to charity: You can choose from any number of charities to donate it to.

    Some charities, like the Support Network for Battered Women or your local women’s shelter, give your phones directly to people who need them, like seniors or victims of domestic violence.

    But others, like Cell Phones for Soldiers, collect your phones in order to sell them to a recycler and use the cash for their own programs. In the case of Cell Phones for Soldiers, for example, they buy prepaid phone cards for servicepeople serving overseas.

    To find a charity you want to support, simply search online for “donate cell phone,” and a long list of options will show up. (One place to start is CollectiveGood’s Mobile Phone Recycling program.)

  • Sell online: If you have a relatively new phone, and one that is fairly expensive to buy new, like an iPhone, you can sell it directly on eBay or Craigslist, just as you would a used computer or a bicycle. There will be plenty of people who can’t afford the full price who will happily take it off your hands.
  • Sell to a middleman: There are many companies that will buy your still-workable cell phone and then resell it to others, just as you would have done on eBay. Search online for “sell my cell phone.” But make sure to do your due diligence to ensure you work with a reputable operator who will actually send you your money after they receive your phone. The Web site WhoBuysCellPhones.com explains much of the process.

Step 3: Send it off

Whichever option you choose, the company you’re giving your phone to will have clear instructions on how to get it to them. In some cases, they even provide free shipping labels you can print off their Web site. So just box your phone up, walk it down to the post office, and you’re done.


Last month’s project

Last month’s project involved recycling printer cartridges. I simply bagged mine up and took them to an office supply store. The cashier happily accepted them, and that was that. I’ve started a new pile in a box near my front door, and I’m going to make it a habit to grab whatever’s there every time I head to the store.

How about you? How’d you do in getting those old ink cartridges out of the house and on to a new life?


  1. Electronic wastes are rampant these days and we should do something about reducing such wastes. Mobile phone recycling is something that is encouraged. Thanks for sharing!

    Charmaine Ann | August 3rd, 2011 | Comment Permalink

Post a Comment

If you want to show your picture with your comment, go get a gravatar!