How to Recycle Cell Phones and Wireless Devices

Cell phones and other wireless devices contain many chemicals that are harmful but also contain plastic parts that can be recycled, both good reasons to make the effort to recycle your old phones. Despite the harms of putting cell phones into landfills and the number of ways to recycle them, the rate of cell phone recycling is very low. Most major brands will now accept cell phones, wireless devices, and related equipment for recycling. Check with them when it’s time to replace your phone. Keep your most recent phone in case your current one breaks, and recycle all others. Remove all personal information (contacts, calendar and notes items, data/pictures, etc.)  and discontinue  service to the phone before donating. Also, check to see if the battery or video/data card should be donated with the phone. Some places ask that the battery be fully discharged and kept in the phone or packaged separately before mailing.

Donated phones may be recycled, refurbished and resold, or re-used by the organization you donated it to or a third-party they work with. Check with the organization about which method they use and decide if you are comfortable with it. Donations of cell phones (and related shipping costs) may be tax-deductible – check the IRS website or talk with your tax adviser about how to go about it.

There are many businesses in the area that have donation boxes to collect cell phones to earn money for charitable organizations. Type your zip code into the box on  Recellular‘s website to find what’s near you. To start a donation collection program of your own, check Recellular’s website for more information. Locally, you can drop your phone off to Sterling Animal Shelter, 17 Laurelwood Road, Sterling, MA, during business hours.

Trade in your cell phone, smart phone or other electronics through Best Buy’s Online Trade In program. If your phone is still worth money, you’ll receive a Best Buy gift card. If it isn’t worth anything, they’ll still accept it for recycling.

Send your phone to these organizations for recycling:

Apple will recycle any brand of cell phone for free. Visit their website to download and print the prepaid mailing label and get more information.

Hopephones gives cellphones to community health workers in developing countries, connecting them to aid at distant medical centers. Donated phones may be used by workers or recycled for their cash value, which is put towards the purchase of  cell phones for the workers.

Wireless Alliance is a cell phone recycling company that either refurbishes, repurposes, or completely recycles cell phones in what they define as a  “zero waste, environmentally conscious manner.”  They accept cell phones, smart phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), iPads, and digital cameras. They also accept the associated wires, batteries, accessories and manuals.  Click on the link access the prepaid mailing label you can use to send your cell phone to them.

Home Depot has recycling bins located near their entrances or at their customer service desk ready to accept your old used cell phone for recycling. They are working with Call2Recycle on this initiative.

If you have a gently-used cell phone that isn’t ready for to be broken down into recyclable parts, donate it to Cell Phones for Soldiers. This organization will use your phone to give active duty military members and veterans access to free communication service, allowing them to remain connected with family members at home. This 501C3 charity organization was started in 2004 by Robbie and Brittany Bergquist of Norwell, Massachusetts, who were ages 12 and 13 at the time. See their website to print a pre-paid mailing label to use when sending in your cell phones.


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