How to Recycle or Repurpose Your Old Cellphone

December 9, 2008 at 10:27 pm Leave a comment

How to Recycle or Repurpose Your Old Cellphone

December 5, 2008 by Chris Baskind


Junk cellphones

Don’t put your worn out cellphone phone in the trash — it’s probably filled with all sorts of toxic nasties. Here’s how to hang up on Old Faithful the right way.

Cellphones are as much a fashion accessory these days as shoes or jewelry. That — and the planned obsolescence of changing technology — means you’ll probably change your phone every 18 months to two years. It all translates to a lot of potentially toxic e-waste.

PVC, lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and brominated flame retardants: consumer electronics can be a witches brew of things you don’t want leaching out of landfills and into your drinking water. Rather than thoughtlessly dropping that old phone into a nearby dumpster or hiding it in a desk drawer, recycle or repurpose it!


Many large electronic stores, including Radio Shack, Staples, and Best Buy, feature handy drop boxes of unwanted phones and batteries. It’s quite possible your cellphone vendor offers a take-back program. call2recycle maintains a national database of drop-off centers here.


Recycle logo

Working or repairable cellphones can be a real lifeline for seniors and women’s shelters. These can be as close as a quick call to organizations listed in your local phone directory. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence accepts phones by mail — as does the Seniors assistance group Phones for Life. You’ll find a long list of organizations want to put your old phone to good use at the Electronic Industries Alliance’s Consumer Education Initiative.

Finally, it’s possible your local community sponsors electronic waste disposal and recycling. Check the government pages in your phone directory.

Respect your own privacy

Cellphones have largely replaced personal digital assistants (PDAs). That makes phones a rich target for unscrupulous identity thieves. Before surrendering a phone for recycling or reuse, delete all of your personal data and make sure it can’t be used to access your wireless account. Remember: a cellphone can hold data indefinitely, even when the battery is dead.

Find out how to zero-out your particular cellphone model at


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