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How to Donate or Recycle Old Cell Phones

Whether you're getting an upgrade, your contract is up and you're ready for a change, or you've found a great holiday deal and you're treating yourself to the latest mobile device, you may be wondering about how to safely and effectively dispose of your old phone.

When electronics are dumped in landfills or improperly disposed of, harmful chemicals can be released into the environment. Some states even have laws against simply throwing away old electronics. For these reasons, recycling or donating your used device is a great option.


First, you need to make sure that the old phone no longer contains any of your personal information. Phones can contain anything from personal photos to passwords and bank account information. How to wipe a phone's internal memory clean and restore it to factory settings can be specific to each device, so consult your user manual or contact your provider to find out how to do this.

Phones usually also have a SIM card or similar memory device. Remove this card from the phone.

Also, make sure you've deleted any apps from the phone and cancelled your service. You also may need to remove the battery from your cell phone because some batteries may have to be recycled seperately.

Each carrier has their own program for recycling devices.

Verizon offers a trade-in that accepts phones from all carriers. You can get your device appraised online, send it to them, and Verizon will e-mail you a gift card - proof that responsibly disposing of electronics can have perks! They also work with the organization Hope Line, which gives phones to victims of domestic violence.

Sprint also accepts phones from all carriers and in all conditions. They have a program called Project Connect, which takes proceeds from collected phones and donates it to internet safety programs for kids. You can pick up a postage-paid envelope from any Sprint store to use to mail your device in, or print out a pre-paid shipping label online. You can also give them your phone in return for credit to your account.

AT&T also offers a trade-in when you bring in old electronic devices to their retail stores and T-Mobile collects devices at their retail stores and recycles them for free.

You can contact your provider and ask about their specific incentives or procedure for recycling or donating used cell phones. Keep in mind that chargers and other cell phone-related equipment can also be recycled.

The Environmental Protection Agency's website provides the following statistical reason to donate or recycle your phone; "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."

If you're concerned about the environment, you may also want to consider buying a refurbished phone the next time you switch devices.

Don't let your old phone molder away in the closet, and absolutely do not throw it in the garbage! Donate or recycle your used device today - it's an easy way to help reduce waste.

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