What To Know Before Recycling An Old Phone

by Carolyn de Lorenzo
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Whether you upgrade your smartphone every year, or you’re still loving your iPhone 6 (no judgment here), at some point, you’ll probably have an old phone or two lying around. And while it might seem like the least pressing thing on your to-do list, recycling your old phone is actually a great idea. Not only does it help reduce landfill waste, recycling your cell phone also has additional environmental benefits. According to a study examining the impact of unrecycled phones on gorilla habitats, published by researchers at the University of Australia, about 400 million people ditched an old phone in 2018, per a recent press release, while only a small percentage of these got recycled. According to TreeHugger, old cell phones add up to 65,000 tons of electronic garbage each year, globally, so taking the time to recycle them is important.

In the phone recycling process, precious metals get extracted that are normally mined in places like the Congo, according to Austmine. When these materials are pulled out of old mobile phones, they can then get reused — lessening the push for the mining of new metals. Recycling your phone means less disruption to gorilla habitats, and you get the satisfaction of clearing out clutter while doing a good deed. And in case you don’t have the slightest idea about how to recycle your old phone, you have a few, pretty easy options to help get you started.

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Popular Science says that, whatever you do, don’t toss your old phone into the trash. Not only does this add to landfill waste, but can leak dangerous chemicals into the environment. Official mobile phone recycling programs are the way to go, as these ensure that all the phone’s components are handled safely in the recycling process. Checking in with your phone’s manufacturer is also a helpful first step in the tech recycling process, as most major brands have an in-house recycling program. Many brand-based recycling programs also offer cash incentives and/or credits for turning in your old phones. Some tech-centered retail outlets, like Best Buy and Staples, also provide ethical recycling options, Popular Science adds.

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While U.S. users only recycle about ten percent of the mobile devices in circulation, recycling your phone has never been easier, writes Earth911. In addition to various recycling programs, mobile carriers typically offer cash, or a credit to your account, when you upgrade your phone. You can also mail in your phone for recycling, or look for Call2Recycle program locations.

Before you turn your phone in, make sure you delete your private data from your old phone, Popular Science says. Personal data breaches are a risk you don’t want to take, so it’s important to take steps to protect your privacy. By backing up your data, including all your contacts, logging off of social media and email, restoring your phone to its factory settings, and removing your SIM card, you can be sure your personal information is wiped before you turn your phone in. If you’re recycling your phone through the device’s manufacturer, they can also provide tips for how to wipe your phone safely before sending it in.

No matter which recycling program you choose, you have options. Whether you want to donate your old phone, or get some cash in return, know that recycling your cell phone is a powerful way to help clean up our environment.