It is that time of year again… spring cleaning time! I love the result of spring cleaning, but it is not my favorite activity. However this year, I am taking on a little more by focusing not only on scrubbing but also on de-cluttering. While de-cluttering one of the bedrooms, I came across a drawer with old cell phones and iPods. I knew that I should recycle my old cell phones and other devices, but how and where?
According to the EPA, Americans get rid of MILLIONS of smartphones every year. Many people just throw their old devices away after a couple years of use. However, electronics leaking chemicals into our landfills is not a good idea. Especially when valuable materials like copper, silver, gold and palladium can be easily recycled from these devices.
To minimize the environmental impact of our smartphones, we have three options to responsibly dispose of our devices: Donate, Sell/Trade-In or Recycle. However, before you do anything make sure your device is safe for resale or donation by following these five steps.
- If the phone is working, back-up your data to the iCloud, iTunes, Google or any other way you might back-up your phone.
- Erase all content and reset your phone. Erasing content can be done through the Settings menu on the iPhone. Android phones will require a factory reset to erase all the content. If you are unsure how to do this, a quick Google search will provide directions specific to your phone. You can also check out this article by Cnet on How to Wipe Your Phone or Tablet Before You Sell It.
- Remove the SIM or SD card.
- Clean your phone if you are looking to sell or trade-in.
- Make sure your phone is disconnected from your wireless carrier.
Now that your phone is clean, both inside and out, you are ready to donate, sell, trade-in or recycle your phone.
If you have an old device that is working, you could always give it to a friend or family member. For example, we have used old tablets to store just movies for car trips, so our current tablets don’t get loaded down with movies and tv shows. However, if you don’t have anyone close to you that could use your old device, you could donate it to a charity.
There are many charities that accept both working and non-working cell phones and tablets. A quick Google search will reveal many of the charities, but here are a couple of the more popular cell phone recycling charities.
Cell Phone for Soldiers – This organization will take both working and non-working cell phones and tablets as donations. When you donate your phone, the device is either recycled for parts or refurbished and resold. The proceeds from the recycled and resold devices are used to fund their two projects: sending calling cards to soldiers overseas and providing one-time emergency grants to soldiers re-entering civilian life. There are drop off locations around the US or you can ship your phones to their address online.
HopeLine – This charity, run by Verizon, benefits victims of domestic violence. HopeLine will accept working or non-working wireless phones, batteries, chargers or accessories from any wireless carrier. Much like Cell Phones for Soldiers, the donated devices are recycled for parts or refurbished and resold. The proceeds are then used to help victims of domestic violence. To donate your phone to HopeLine, just bring your device to any Verizon location. You can also print a prepaid shipping label to ship your device to HopeLine.
Sell or Trade-In
While selling or trading in your old device may take a little extra time, it could be well worth it. The options to sell and trade-in are getting more and more convenient, and newer devices could be worth a couple hundred dollars.
If you are interested in getting cash or credit for your phone, make sure to shop around. The values will vary. For example, AT&T will give me a $30 credit for my iPhone 5, but Gazelle will give me $40 cash. Here are a few ways to sell or trade-in your old device.
Your Wireless Carrier – Most wireless carriers will offer credit in exchange for your old device. Of course, newer models will be worth more, but there is no reason to leave money on the table for any acceptable device. For most carriers, you can just bring your old device in to get a quote on the spot or get a quote online and ship your phone to the carrier.
Gazelle – Gazelle is a popular online site where you can buy or sell pre-owned smartphones. The process to get a quote online is very easy. Once you have your quote, you ship your phone to Gazelle (for free) for confirmation of the model and condition. After your phone has been received and confirmed, you will receive your payment in the form of check, Amazon gift card or PayPal.
ecoATM – If you don’t feel like waiting for your cash, try ecoATM, a sister brand to Gazelle. ecoATM is kind of like a phone vending machine except you put your phone in and get cash out. Basically, you bring your charged phone and drivers license to the kiosk. The machine will scan the device and provide you with a cable to hook up to your phone. Then the phone will be checked once more, and you will be provided with a quote. If you accept the quote, you leave your phone in the machine and take the cash. You can watch a short video about how this works here. There are kiosks all over the US. To find one near you, click here.
Swappa – Swappa.com is an online marketplace where you can buy and sell smartphones and other devices. This site is unlike Gazelle in that you are personally selling your phone to buyer – like eBay. You may be able to get more money for your phone this way (especially if you have a new model), but it will be more work than selling to a reseller like Gazelle. Although I have not personally sold a phone on Swappa, I have purchased one on Swappa. I had a great experience and feel that it is a great place to get discounted phones for yourself or teens.
If you are not interested in donating, trading-in or selling your devices, then you can just drop them off to be recycled. There are probably many drop off locations to recycle your old devices that you may not have ever noticed. For example, our Target has a phone recycling bin at the front of the store. It is not flashy, but it is there. On your next trip to Target, just drop your old devices in the recycling bin. Done.
Best Buy is another good option. Best Buy will actually recycle lots of different electronics for free (typically a limit of 3 items per day per family). You can view the full list with state specific guidelines here.
Other recycling options include Staples and wireless carrier stores.
Any of these options to donate, sell, trade-in or recycle your old cell phones will be helpful to the environment by keeping them out of landfills. Making a little extra money would be a nice windfall, but it would also be nice to donate your phones to a good cause or to just drop them off in the recycle bin at Target. Whatever you do, just don’t throw your old cell phones in the trash 🙂