April 25, 2018
Environmentally Friendly Ways to Recycle your Old Cell Phones
By Ashley Thielen

There are approximately 260 million cellphone users in the United States – that’s 85% of the population [2]! Now think about how many cellphones you have had in your life. Think about your old flip phone, QWERTY keyboard slide phone, and your first touch screen device. What did you do with them when you upgraded to the next latest and greatest device?

There are nearly 1 BILLION old and forgotten handheld devices tucked away, collecting dust in people’s homes [1]. Of those that do purge the old devices from their homes, it is estimated that less than 20 percent of them are safely recycled, meaning the majority are dumped in the landfill where they can release their toxic materials including arsenic, acid and lead [3].

Consumer electronics, including cellphones, tablets and laptops, contain a large number of toxic and hazardous materials that can pose risks to human health and the environment. Such materials include heavy metals such as lead and mercury, as well as arsenic, acid, beryllium and cadmium [1]. The improper disposal of electronics creates what’s known as e-waste (electronic waste) in our landfills and poses as a threat to our environment and health due to the way these toxins linger.

So, what can you do to help the growing problem of e-waste?

Donate. Resell. Recycle. And whatever you do, DON’T THROW AWAY YOUR ELECTRONICS!

Donating or recycling consumer electronics helps conserve our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that recycling just a million cell phones reduces greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 33 cars off the road for a year. It is also estimated that 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 [2].

Help be a part of the change!

Here are a few ways you can safely dispose of your old cellphones and handheld electronics.


An easy way to safely and easy get rid of your old electronics is to give them away to someone else who needs them. Do you have a friend or family member that could use your old cellphone? If not, consider donating them to someone in need and give your old electronics to a charity. Most charities will take phones in any condition and determine if they are able to be refurbished or not, and if they aren’t, they will safely recycle them. Here are 2 great charities to consider! Make sure to check out your local charities for electronic drives, too!

Cell Phones for Soldiers

Cell Phones for Soldiers gives back to the troops who dedicate their lives protecting us by providing them with a lifeline. The program accepts all makes, models and conditions of cell phones. Each $5 contribution or donated device valued at $5 will provide troops with an estimated 2.5 hours of free talk time! Visit their website to print out a shipping label or to find one of their official drop-off locations!

Medic Mobile 
Medic Mobile safely recycles your phone or tablet to fund healthcare programs in Africa, Asian and Latin America. Each phone donated, working or not, is either refurbished for medical use or recycled to fund their many projects around the world. The phones can be used to register pregnancies, quickly track disease outbreaks, monitor medicine stock and communicate emergencies. Visit their website to learn more and to print out a free shipping label for your old devices!

Resell or Trade-In

Make some extra money and help someone who can’t afford a brand-new phone! If your device is semi-new and in good condition, you can check with your carrier to see if they have any trade-in deals for you to upgrade to a new model at a discounted price. There are also many reputable websites that buy and resell your old devices. Here are a few companies that can help you get extra cash for your device.


Gazelle allows customers to sell old electronics and buy certified pre-owned devices. It’s quick and easy! Visit their website to get an offer on your device, ship it for free, and get paid by your choice of an Amazon Gift Card, PayPal or check! You can also find a kiosk near you to sell f or immediate cash.

Best Buy 

Visit Best Buy’s website to check their trade-in estimator to see what your item is worth, then trade it in for a Best Buy gift card you can use to upgrade to the latest tech. You can trade in your device online or at a participating location if you want your gift card instantly.


Drop off your old phone at an electronics recycling location or take-back program. Phone parts and materials can be used in a new phone or product – metals, plastics, and batteries can all be reused for other products.


ecoATM offers an easy-to-use and eco-friendly kiosk that rewards you for recycling old devices. Last year, ecoATM recycled over 14 million devices and enabled the recovery and reuse of 1,050 pounds of gold, 10,808 pounds of silver and 493,836 pounds of copper! Simply visit one of the many ecoATM kiosks to recycle your device for instant cash!

Best Buy 

Best Buy has collected and responsibly disposed of more than 1 billion pounds of electronics and appliances to reduce e-waste. They accept all kinds of used tech regardless of where you got it, how old it is, or what condition it is in. All U.S. Best Buy stores offer the in-store recycling program for customers who bring in their old electronics.

The Wireless Alliance

The Wireless Alliance specializes in asset recovery and recycling of cellular phones, smart phones, tablets, and other consumer recyclables. Working, tested, data cleared devices are sold to repair centers worldwide for refurbishment and reuse. Devices that cannot be reused are shredded and the metals are extracted for asset recovery to produce new products! Go to their website to print out a free shipping label.

Don’t contribute to e-waste! Donate, resell, or recycle!


[1] https://www.ecoatm.com/going-green/

[2] https://www.epa.gov/recycle/electronics-donation-and-recycling

[3] http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20161017-your-old-phone-is-full-of-precious-metals