How to Recycle Old Cell Phones: The Ultimate Guide

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a drawer in your bedroom with at least two or three old cell phones, just sitting there, taking up space.

I’ve been wondering what the most responsible thing to do with those old cell phones lately, so I started doing a little bit of research. I decided to turn my research into a blog post, so that anyone else with a bunch of old cell phones sitting around can also recycle them properly instead of hoarding them in a drawer, or throwing them into the landfill.

Why Recycle Your Old Cell Phone?

The EPA estimates that only 10 percent of cell phones ever get recycled, so we need to do something different!

Electronic waste is a serious issue. Consumer electronics – including TVs and other video equipment, computers, assorted peripherals, audio equipment, and phones – make up almost two percent of the municipal solid waste stream. More 80 percent of electronic waste overall doesn’t get recycled at all, and ends up in the landfill.

And electronic waste is TOXIC! Lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants are among the substances contained in electronics.

There are systems in place to recycle this stuff. You just need to take the time to do it. It really isn’t that difficult, and you can make a big difference by keeping your old cell phones and other e-waste out of the landfill.

So, here we go.

Let’s Talk Privacy

One of the main reasons I haven’t done anything with my old phones is the issue of privacy. Is the new person who gets the cell phone going to have all of my numbers and contacts?

The EPA recommends manually deleting everything from your cell phone’s contact list, and then removing the SIM card. Most cell phones should have some kind of menu in the settings where you can delete the entire contact list at once. The EPA also points out that you should make sure you’ve actually terminated the service for the phone before you drop it off. Good point!

Here’s a great resource for deleting all your phone data before you donate. It gives you instructions for specific phone models!

Donating Your Cell Phone to Charity lists several reputable charities where you can donate your cell phone.

Call2Recycle is a free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program in North America. Call2Recycle says that since 1994, it has diverted 50 million pounds of rechargeable batteries from the solid waste stream and established a network of 30,000 recycling drop-off points. If you go to their site, you can type in your ZIP code and find a place to drop off your phone, for free. Be sure to check your drawer for rechargeable batteries, while you’re at it!

Collective Good is also a cell phone recycling resource. If you have spare cell phones, smart phones, PDAs or iPods to recycle, you can recycle them with Collective Good and know that they will be recycled in an environmentally responsible manner. Collective Good works with Staples, if you want to drop the phone off. Or you can mail it in to them. With their service, you get to choose one of their charities where the money will go from your donation, and you can claim it on your taxes, if you want. If you leave the SIM card in the phone, they will destroy it.

Recellular is an organization that works with most of the cell phone carriers. If you drop off your phone at your cell phone carrier’s store location, this is where your phone will probably end up. Recellular also works with a program called Cell Phones for Soldiers, which helps US troops call home from overseas.

If you want to go local, I recommend calling a local women’s shelter and asking if they accept donations of used cell phones. Often, they will give them to women in need, because you can use an un-activated cell phone to call 911 in an emergency, even without a service plan.

Recycling Your Cell Phone at Your Phone Carrier

The EPA is on top of this one, with a full list of partners. I’ve also compiled these links below, which go right to the recycling information pages for each carrier.





Recycling Your Cell Phone via the Manufacturer

These guys made your phone in the first place, and they’ll take it back too.






LG Electronics

Sony Ericsson

Recycling Your Cell Phone at Electronics Stores and Other Stores

You’re probably going to go to one of these major stores over the next 30 to 60 days anyway, so why not drop off your old cell phone for recycling while you’re there? Once again, these links go straight through to the recycling information pages of these stores.

Best Buy

Office Depot



Give it Away? Are You Kidding? I Want Cold, Hard Cash. (Or, How to Sell Your Old Cell Phone.)

So maybe you’re sitting on a first or second generation iPhone, or a used Blackberry, or some other higher dollar phone that people still want to buy today, and you can’t bear the thought of giving it away.

I’m not here to judge you! I just want you to keep that phone out of your drawer, and out of the landfill. Here are some options for selling those used cell phones you have sitting around.

Ebay. Do I really need to elaborate on this one?

Cell For Cash. Too lazy to set up an Ebay account, list the phone, and then ship it to someone? These guys make it much, much easier.

Craigslist. Free to list! You probably won’t have to ship anything, because it’s local. What’s not to like?


Did I miss anything? Do you have questions?

Leave me a comment and let me know, and I’ll continue to update.

If you find this post useful, would you mind bookmarking it with your favorite social bookmarking service, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook, please?

Speakman Showerheads: A Water Saving, Low Flow Version

If you’ve ever stayed at a nice hotel, chances are you’ve used a Speakman showerhead. They’re the ones with multiple jets, and a little lever so that you can adjust the way that the showerhead sprays. They give you a nice, quality shower, and they look pretty fancy too.

But what about us environmentalists who want to save a little bit of water when we shower? The standard Speakman showerhead uses 2.5 gallons per minute. That’s much lower than showerheads manufactured in the 1980s and before, but it is the maximum amount of water allowed for a showerhead these days. Sort of eco-neutral in my book.

But Speakman now makes a 2 gallon per minute showerhead, in six different varieties.

That means that you can get the luxury of a real Speakman, and still meet LEED green building standards.

When you buy a showerhead that uses less water, you’re saving in two different ways.

First, you’re saving water, because the showerhead uses less of it. Duh, right?

Second, you’re also saving on your energy bill! It takes energy to make hot water, and I’m betting that you usually take a hot shower. Whether or not you have a gas or electric water heater, you’ll be using less hot water when you use a water saving showerhead, and that will help with your gas or electric bill.

And there’s the added benefit that your hot water lasts longer, which is important for homes with teenagers, or just several family members who all need to take a shower at the same time in the morning.

Anyone used one of these yet? I use a different brand of efficient showerhead, which I like.

Steel Buildings – Can They Be Green Buildings?

If you’ve ever been inside an uninsulated steel building in the middle of summer, you know how hot it can get inside.

But can steel buildings still be a good choice for green building? Apparently, they can.

Let’s look at some features of steel buildings that could be considered eco-friendly, or green.

Steel does take a lot of energy to make. But it’s also easy to recycle, and it actually gets recycled, because it costs a lot. In fact, steel is the most recycled material on earth. Just about all steel that you buy also has high levels of recycled content.

Steel has a longer life cycle than wood or other materials, so they don’t need to be repaired or replaced as often. Some steel buildings have manufacturer structural guarantees of 50 years.

And when the day finally comes for a steel building to be torn down, all of that steel is going to get recycled yet again.

Heating and cooling loss around doors, windows, foundation and roofing can be a lot lower with steel buildings than with other types of building materials, because of how well steel buildings fit together.

Metal roofs are cool roofs, when they are painted the right color or reflective. Check out the Energy Star website and you’ll see a large number of metal roofs listed as Energy Star compliant.

And check out the LEED points that you can earn with a steel building.

The University of Connecticut’s steel building was the first athletic building in the United States to earn LEED Gold status.

In Canada, Steelcare Inc.’s 50,000 square foot steel building was the first industrial building in the country to achieve LEED Canada Gold.

Air quality can also be better inside a metal building, because steel doesn’t offgas. With the right paint, there will not be any VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

But what about that incredibly hot metal building I was talking about before? It didn’t have insulation!

Insulation is key with metal buildings, and there are many different ways to insulate them effectively. Reflective insulation in particular works well with steel buildings.

Interested in learning more? Here’s a good article about metal buildings and energy efficiency from a trade publication for building operations management .

Anyone have any experience with steel buildings that have either Energy Star or LEED certification? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.

Terror by electric bike in China?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a great article about e-bikes in China.

Most people in China cannot afford a car yet, and there wouldn’t be room on the streets if everyone could afford them! Public transportation can be slow and crowded.

Bicycles have been a popular, low cost way for Chinese to get around for decades. But as incomes rose, many Chinese opted for faster motorbikes to get around on. The problem with gas powered motorcycles is that they were primarily cheap, two stroke models that caused massive amounts of air pollution. Chinese authorities banned them in many downtown and urban areas, just as the technology for electric scooters became good enough and cheap enough to be a reasonable alternative.

These days there are an estimated 120 million e-bikes in China. Most of them run on lead acid batteries, which are much cheaper than technologically superior lithium ion batteries.

So what’s the problem?

Officials were caught off guard when that environmentally appealing solution turned out to be deadly on the streets. In 2007, there were 2,469 deaths from electric-bicycle accidents nationwide, up from just 34 in 2001, according to government statistics.

That’s roughly 3% of China’s annual 90,000 traffic accident deaths. Still technically bicycles, they’re operating in a legal gray zone. Drivers of electric bikes don’t need to pass stringent driving tests to get licensed, and courts are struggling to sort out lawsuits.

Pedestrians complain that e-bike riders pay little heed to the rules of the road. Drivers of electric bikes are “totally devoid of conscience and respect for the law,” complained Wang Mingyue, a blogger on the popular Beijing News Web site.

Green news for the New Year

Photo courtesy of soyignatius at

2009 was a major turning point for news. A critical mass of people have started asking for the green angle behind every story, and asking for more from our politicians, companies, and co-workers. Even as newspapers cut staff, they hired or reassigned editors and writers for their Environmental News sections.

Increased awareness is good, especially when it brings policy changes. There were some major environmental success stories this year. For instance, Brown pelicans were taken off of the endangered species list and the first extinct species was brought back to life using cloning. California passed a law encouraging energy efficient TV sets, and propane based freezers are finally hitting the market as an alternative to ozone damaging HCFCs.

What piece of environmental news do you find most exciting? Please share your good news and let us know what you’ll be working on in 2010!