A recent survey conducted by Kelton Research for ecoATM reported that 57 percent of American device owners have idle cell phones in their homes, and 39 percent have at least two cell phones collecting dust at home.
If you (or someone you know) has an unused cell phone, the following is a simple, two-step process for getting rid of it:
Step 1: Remove all the data
You don’t want the next owner to get all the data stored on your phone: addresses and phone numbers, calendar appointments, messages, etc. After you’ve backed up all that data, you’ll want to remove it from your phone. You can find out how to remove it —
- All cell phone owners: Lifehacker has general instructions for removing SIM cards and erasing data on all cell phones.
- iPhone owners: Apple provides instructions for removing your personal information from your iPhone on its site. They also have instructions for removing the SIM card.
- Android owners: CNET, Android Central and TalkAndoird.com have Android-specific information for removing data. Your cell phone provider may have information, too; for example, advice for a Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch for Sprint.
Step 2: Determine where you want to sell, donate, or recycle the phone
Newer phones can often be sold, even if they are broken or cracked. If your phone can’t be sold, it can certainly be recycled. You have a lot of choices, including:
- Sell or give away to a friend or relative.
- Sell in a general marketplace, such as eBay or craigslist.
- Sell to one of the many online companies buying cell phones for a set price. You may not make as much money as you would selling in eBay, but it’s less hassle. I’ve used both GreenCitizen and Gazelle, and both worked out fine. (Suggestion: Don’t send Gazelle two phones in the same prepaid box, as I once did; it’s too easy for the paperwork to get mixed up.)
- Sell at an ecoATM.
- Use the trade-in/buyback program from your cell phone manufacturer or service provider: Apple, AT&T, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc. Note that these will give you gift cards (or billing credits) for their own products and services, rather than cash.
- Use the Amazon.com Trade-In Store.
- Donate to one of the many groups that collect phones for good causes. These groups usually don’t give the phones away; rather, the phones are sold to a third party for reuse or recycling, and the proceeds are used to support the organization’s work. For example, Cell Phones for Soldiers says: “The money received from the recycling of cell phones is used to purchase international calling cards for active-duty military deployed overseas to connect with their friends and family back home.”
- Donate to Goodwill
- Recycle with cell phone manufacturers, cell phone service providers, retail outlets, etc. Most (if not all) of these will accept any phones for recycling, not just their own. You can find recycling sites through Call2Recycle, which has signed the e-Steward Pledge not to export e-waste to developing countries.
If you can’t erase the data
If you don’t have the charger for your phone, and can’t power it up to remove the data, you may want to go to your cell phone provider and see if that company can help.
Otherwise, you could use a service that will handle that for you, for a fee. For example, I’ve used GreenCitizen, located in the San Francisco Bay Area; I see that Green Tech Recycling does the same thing in Cleveland.