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6 Tips For E-Cycling Your Mobile Device 5

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Got a new smartphone? Keep these tips in mind to properly dispose of your old ones.

My husband and I have a drawer that’s just filled with old tech: Mobile phones, obsolete cases, mismatched cords, tangled headsets, and other detritus of the digital age. When we replace our phones, which I feel happens way too frequently, our old ones go into this electronics graveyard, never to be seen again.

Sound familiar? When I recently realized that we had a good six or eight devices in there, I decided to finally take a stand and dispose of them. But how? We know mobile devices aren’t normal trash, and also that they can’t be put in the recycle bin. Follow these tips to properly recycle your electronic devices.

1. Decide if you really do need to upgrade

It’s easy to be swayed by every new phone model that comes out, particularly if you can get a shiny new device almost for free by signing a new mobile service contract. But it’s way greener, even if it’s not necessarily cooler, to hold onto your phone until it truly needs to be replaced. So update your software, replace a cracked screen, and help limit the resources used to manufacture new phones.

2. Repurpose your phone at home

Even once service is switched off, your smartphone can probably still do plenty of handy things. Why not keep it in your kitchen to use as a mini recipe browser, or load it up with music and keep it in the car? We’ve bequeathed our oldie but goody to our daughters so they can use it for games, while I have friends who use theirs as a baby monitor. Here are some more ideas for repurposing your phone.

3. Make some money

Before you get rid of your phone, check to see if you might be able to sell it. Even a phone with a damaged screen could fetch you some cash, and this means your phone will likely get refurbished and be put back into use by someone else.

4. Find a recycling facility

Old phones that are no longer usable still have value: Every million cell phones that are recycled could yield 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, and 72 pounds of gold, among other components, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. You can find a local facility that accepts cell phones, or check with the manufacturer: Apple, for instance, will give you a gift card for phones that still have value, and if they don’t, they’ll recycle them responsibly at no cost to you. Another source for recycling is your carrier: Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint each operate trade-in programs that might even earn you a gift card.

5. Wipe the data

Whether you sell or donate your phone, or even if you just plan to use it to play music, it’s a good idea to wipe it clean so that confidential and private information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Luckily, it’s not hard to do, even for the non-tech-savvy.

6. Don’t forget the accessories

Be sure to include the chargers and headsets with your phone when you sell or recycle it. But if you have extras, check your local Best Buy since they have an e-waste recycling program that may accept them. Or ask around: You might be surprised by the amount of people who could use your extras.


What do you do with your old cell phones? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

  • Beverly L. 17 days ago
    We only update when needed and we have the old phones right now which we do not have a big pile or drawer full as of yet. I am going to use some of my old ones as suggested above and then I will have less laying around. Thanks
  • Sabina D. 23 days ago
    I have a long top! I used spot cleaner on it to take out a grease spot! It took out the color where the spot was! What can I do?
  • michael h. 1 month ago
    What can you do with an old "flip phone" (not "smart") other than let the kids use it to play with and take pictures (which can't be downloaded anywhere without paying for service)?
  • Greg G. 1 month ago
    I like keeping an outdated phone as a mobile device, and our family =certainly= does not upgrade at the first opportunity they give us.

    One additional option is to look for a local or regional agency that provides free phones to people in need. I've seen this at domestic violence recovery centers to give potential victims a phone for their safety, or to provide military families a way to stay in touch more frequently during deployments