Recycle Your Old Smartphone For The Earth Or For Profit

Photo courtesy of Mike Finkelstein via Flickr

Your old phone could put the world at risk. Go green instead!

With upgrades available every few years on most cellular plans and new, faster mobile devices being released regularly, newer smartphones are constantly making older ones obsolete.

But what of these old, abandoned smart phones? They are of little use gathering dust on the mantle, getting sent to a landfill, or worse, into the wrong person’s hands carrying personal information.

Could my old smartphone be dangerous?

Abandoned smart phones can be dangerous if not disposed of properly. Most cell phones contain toxic metals, such as lead and cadmium, that can create environmental harm if thrown into municipal landfills.

Recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources and prevents air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Why recycle?

Along with metals that can be toxic to the earth, electronic devices are also comprised of valuable materials including plastic, glass, and metals, all which require energy to mine and manufacture.

According to the United States Environment and Protection Agency (EPA), for every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Recycling not only saves the earth from further damage, but helps recover valuable resources that would otherwise go to waste.

Okay, I’m sold. How do I do recycle my phone?

A 2014 Compass Intelligence report found that 25% of survey respondents recycle phones as opposed to 11% in 2011, so rates are on the rise. It also found that by far, the most common incentive for recycling is cash – so if saving the world didn’t grab you, that ought to.

Depending on state law, cell phone providers are often required to accept old cell phones and electronic devices – you can check on where you can recycle yours here, or seek advice from your local health and sanitation agency.

Besides common manufacturer take back programs, there are also many online cell phone recycling programs that are easy and rewarding:

1. Phones 4 Freedom – Donate your cellphone to help fight against human trafficking. Phones 4 Freedom refurbishes and recycles phones to help anti-trafficking organizations around the world. Free shipping available.

2. RBRC “Call2Recycle” – Free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program in North America.

3. – Will help find a cell phone donation box closest to you.

4. – Will plant a tree for each used cell phone that it receives. Simply use the prepaid shipping label to ship your used cell phone for free recycling.

And for those tight for cash:

1. — ship in your old phone for free, recieve money in return.

2. ecoATM — bring your old phone to an ecoATM location, scan it, sell it, receive cash on the spot.

3. Gazelle — select your phone model and carrier online for quotes, ship it in and get paid. Works for other electronics like tablets and ipods as well.

So what about those phones that aren’t recycled?

Hopefully users have found other uses for their phones, such as donating or re-selling. But remember, no matter what you choose to do with your old phone (hopefully something green), it’s important to permanently remove personal and sensitive information from the device first.

What do you think? Are the unrecycled smart phones of the world out there somewhere, threatening to destroy our earth? Tweet us @curiousmatic! We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jennifer Markert