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Old Cell Phones

Updated on April 19, 2012

What Should We Do With Old Cell Phones?

We love our cell phones and are lost without them, but we are a fickle group. After time, almost any cell phone will cease to function, but long before that, many of us find a newer model to replace our more "antiquated" phone.

The average person uses a cell phone approximately 18 months before replacing it. With an estimated 250 million plus cell phones in the US alone, this presents an issue as far as disposal of old cell phones. It's currently estimated that there are 500 million cell phones sitting on shelves or in landfills in this country with an additional 2 million phones being added to this total weekly.

The EPA has designated mobile phones as hazardous waste due to their lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic content. Thus, we are faced with the environmental/health issues that arise, as well as the economic result of wasted resources.

Find out your options for dealing with old cell phones. Use the expandable Table of Contents below to find things quickly.

Why are Old Cell Phones Hazardous?

Be Safe

Don't sell, donate, recycle, or otherwise dispose of old cell phones until you've made sure your personal information has been removed. Read lower on the page about what precautions to take.

Option 1: Recycle Old Cell Phones

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that less than 20% of of old cell phones are currently being recycled. Consumers do have viable options to recycle old cell phones; some programs reclaim the precious metals and components of the phone and others provide donated equipment that is still operable for charity.

The EPA has worked with leading manufacturers and retailers to make recycling old cell phones easier. Read about the joint cell phone recycling campaign.

The EPA site even provides a list of locations where cell phones can be taken for recycling

Finding Where to Recycle Old Cell Phones

There are many sites online that offer recycling services. In most instances, consumers merely fill out a form and mail their old cell phone, with the form, to the address provided.

Recyclemycellphone is one such site. The site also encourages interested visitors to help in setting up recycling programs within their community.

Two other online options are RBRC, which also recycles all rechargeable batteries, and exPhone.

Most wireless providers, and some manufacturers, offer recycling programs. AT&T offers such an option. Find out more about the charitable efforts of other providers below.

For organizations, schools, and businesses ThinkRecycle offers a program with cash rewards.

Option 2: Donate Old Cell Phones

If you want to donate old cell phones for charity, there are many programs available. Most cellular carriers, in fact, offer programs.

For instance, Verizon Wireless offers the Hopeline program which collects phones from any provider to assist victims of domestic violence. They also conduct a battery recycling program. Similarly, T-Mobile has the Huddle Up program to benefit charities and Sprint offers Project Connect.

To donate old cell phones to others in need, or to raise funds for charity, there are many additional options, several of which are listed below.

Option 3: Sell Old Cell Phones

Cell phones can cost quite a bit of money. Therefore, the option to sell old cell phones can be attractive to help cover the cost of a new one.

One such option is CellForCash.com. Users of this service can get cash for their functioning cell phone and cash for referrals to the program. Cellforcash will even provide the postage paid box for mailing your phone.

Another option to sell old cell phones is SimplySellular.

Certainly, used cell phones can also be sold through sites such as e-bay and Craigslist as well.

Option 4: Trade Old Cell Phones

For those who wish to rid themselves of not only their cell phone but also a current cellular contract, it may pay to investigate the option to trade old cell phones and contract via subleasing. One such site that can assist with this is CellTradeUSA.

CellTradeUSA basically connects individuals who wish to get out of a contract with people wanting to get in. Users can post a free ad indicating the monthly fee, the minutes, and the remaining contract period that would be assumed. There is a single fee of $19.99 to gain unlimited access to responses from your posting. Once someone is found to assume the contract, the process is brief and simply involves a credit check by the cellular provider and signing a transfer contract. This system allows users to get out of contracts early, pass along their phone to another user, and avoid any early termination fees.

Cellswapper is another option to trade old cell phones for someone wanting out of a contract.

For cell phone owners who simply want to trade to offset the expense of a new phone with all the bells and whistles, there are sites that allow this. One such site is FlipSwap which allows users to send in their old phone and obtain a new phone at a reduced cost.

Before You Part with Your Old Cell Phone

Whether you recycle, trade, or sell old cell phones there are precautions you should take.

Terminate your account to assure no additional charges will be associated with it. Cell phones contain a great deal of personal information so before you send your phone off for recycling, donation, or to a buyer, be sure you have removed as much data as possible. Remove your SIM card. Check the cell phone manual for instructions on how to reset your phone.If someone else will be using your old cell phone, you should unlock it first to assure it can be used by the receiving party. Sites online abound to help with this, TheTravelInsider is one such site.

Old Cell Phones: The Final Option

The majority of old cell phones are still in fine working order when we replace them. Thus, the final option for an old phone is obvious, keep it and use it.

A choice can be made to wait another year or two to "upgrade". This also offers the advantage of significant money savings.

Even if you choose to replace a functioning phone, perhaps a backup could be useful. A phone that is kept in the car for emergency use, or used when more rugged conditions are anticipated. Hiking, going to the beach, and similar activities do pose certain threats to that shiny new model. Or perhaps, not every member of the family has their own phone, having a "floater phone" that is used as needed could be a great way of meeting some of the less routine communication needs.

Even old cell phones without service can be used to make 911 calls, making these older phones valuable.

Intro Photo Credit: Shortfatkid on Flickr.

Recycle Old Cell Phones Photo Credit: cogdogblog

Donate Old Cell Phones Photo Credit: Oracio.

Selling Old Cell Phones Photo Credit: ppdigital.

Finding Where to Recycle Photo Credit: Bombardier

Trade Old Cell Phones Photo Credit: dyobmit.

Before You Part with Your Old Cell Phone Photo Credit: ninjanoodles

Old Cell Phones: The Final Option Photo Credit: djloche.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I sold my smartphone at www.smartphonecashin.com - was a bit reluctant at first because they offer more money than anyone else, but the process was easy and hassle free

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      "I found these guys are the best, www.smartphonecashin.com - they pay the highest dollar amount out of any smartphone trade-in program out there... They don't accept as many types of phones, but pay the highest dollar amount for the cell phones that they do accept. I was skeptical at first, but found their process to be hassle free and very easy - FedEx Free pickup for your phone, and very quick payment."

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      Technology changes before my phones do. Great and informative lens though. Thanks for sharing.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Thank you for all this valuable information and links. I never thought about them being dangerous or about the information they held. Thanks for the heads up.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 9 years ago from Royalton

      I was going to suggest donating old cell phones to schools to use for play but after reading this lens it sounds like they have too many hazardous chemicals.

      Thank you so much for the info.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Great information!! Good deals here - www.dotcells.com

    • profile image

      coastingalong 9 years ago

      So glad I found your lens as I am need of replacing my cell. Your information here gave great insights on the how-to of owning a cell. Thanks

    • profile image

      WhippetTalk 9 years ago

      Great! I was just cleaning out some old boxes today I had in storage and came across 2 old cell phones. I was just wondering what I should do with them, since I knew it was bad to just toss them out. Thanks for the resources!

    • bernd49 lm profile image

      bernd49 lm 9 years ago

      Thanks for your great work!! 5stars

      Greetings from Vienna

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 9 years ago

      Good information. I have a collection, maybe I should donate them.

    • TriviaChamp profile image

      TriviaChamp 9 years ago

      Wow great lens. I never realised that I could donate my old phone. Thanks for the tip.

      ~Jane

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 9 years ago

      Jam packed lens! Thanks for sharing this info. I think cellforcash.com is a great way to go ;)

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 9 years ago from Arkansas USA

      There's an organization around here that recycles/sells old cell phones to raise money to buy phone cards for troops in Iraq, which I think is a great project (especially since I have a son going back over there soon). Nice lens!