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?