how do i recycle my old cell phones?

Giant Nokia with multitude of teenage girl-style faceplates (let's see, flowers, Hello Kitty and shimmery hot pink come to mind right away).
Smaller Motorola with customizable polyphonic ringtones.
Two Samsung sliders.
Blackberry Torch, bless its heart.

In 11 years, I've managed to rack up a collection of old cell phones. And I am far from the only one. 


According to Volunteer Guide, more than 500 million unwanted cell phones are either awaiting disposal in the home, or seeping hazardous lead, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants and arsenic into the environment. 

And because of planned obsolescence, a cell phone's average life is now less than 18 months, adding more than 140 million cell phones (and their batteries) to landfills each year.




So how do we go about recycling those cell phones so they don't sit in landfills and contribute to pollution? First erase any stored information. Most cell phones use a master reset to delete information quickly and easily. Then remove your phone’s SIM card if you can.
  • Drop off your unwanted cell phones in physical bins in wireless provider and electronics stores.
    • Best Buy has bins near their entrances that accept cell phones, chargers and hands-free headsets.
    • Verizon Wireless accepts cell phones in their stores and puts them in the Hopeline program. The program then cleans and refurbishes the phones, and then donates the proceeds to domestic violence organizations.
    • ATT Wireless has drop-off bins in their retail locations.
    • LG's recycling program has a drop-off site search tool, but the sites can be scarce in your area. For example, there was no site within 50 miles of me.
    • Samsung has a recycling program as well.
  • Mail off your unwanted cell phone.
    • Donate the phone to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
    • Operation Gratitude collects cell phones and recycles them in order to raise funds to send overseas troops care packages.
    • Cell Phones for Soldiers is a similar program, but they accept used phones and use the money to send troops calling cards and other communication tools. They also accept cell batteries and accessories.
    • OEM Take Back accepts old Samsung products.
    • Earth911 has a comprehensive list of mail-in programs.
    • The EPA also has a list of different vendors for recycling.
And what about cell phone batteries? Most places that accept used cell phones should accept their batteries as well. Call2Recycle accepts batteries, and explains how they are recycled in a nifty little flowchart. They also have a very comprehensive list of locations where you can drop off rechargeable batteries and cell phones. There are 18 locations in my immediate area, one of which is my local Best Buy.

What better way to kick off Earth Month than to round up all the old cell phones lying around your house and recycling them, or better yet, donating them?

2 comments

Lindsey Thibodeaux said...

Yay! Thanks for the heads up. I've been dying to know what to do with this old dead battery.

Caitlin said...

You're welcome! Let me know what you end up doing with it!

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