Cell Phone Recycling: What to Do with Your Old Phones
Updated September 2018
Did you know that 95% of Americans own a cellphone? As more and more upgrades appear on the market, 75% of people leave their old cell phones sitting around the house. What can we do with this unnecessary build up of mobile phones? Cell phone recycling!
Unfortunately, for being such a popular technology, those old Nokia’s, Razr’s, Samsung Galaxy’s and iPhone’s have an extremely low recycling rate – a shameful 20% in the US. As faster, swankier, and more powerful cell phones emerge, the millions we already have quickly become obsolete and get dumped.
But, there ARE many ways we can prevent old, less swanky phones from ending up in a landfill (wasting resources and damaging the environment in the process). GreenCitizen has some solutions for you, whether it is through regular drop-off, reuse, or recycling.
Can Cell Phones be Recycled?
Yes, your old cell phones can be recycled, reused, or refurbished. A fully-functional phone unwanted by you does not belong in the trash, but can be used by someone else. Phones with minor problems are fixable for reuse. Luckily, extra mined resources and labor are not needed to make a brand new phone. For phones that are beyond repair, recycling is the way to go.
Why Do We Need to Recycle Mobile Phones?
Our old phones are in many ways miniature gold mines. They contain rare earth elements and metals like gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, tin, and zinc. Recycling can recover these minerals. For every one million cell phones recycled, we can recover 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium. Metals and rare earth elements especially, are difficult to mine and need a great deal of energy to extract. By recovering them from old phones we save enormous amounts of resources and energy!
How Does Cell Phone Recycling Work?
Here is how GreenCitizen handles cell phone recycling. We will take all your old cell phones for free. Upon receiving phones we refurbish and resell as many of them as we can. And don’t be concerned about all those contacts and late-night texts you have left on your phone. Have no fear…GreenCitizen wipes them clear! We offer a $20 data erasure service that uses the Department of Defense 5220.22-M Data Sanitization software.
Phones that we cannot fix and resell will be sent to our E-steward and R2 certified recycling vendors. They can magically take the working parts of old phones and combine them with working parts of others to create a perfectly useable cell phone. Or, these vendors can melt down and extract valuable natural resources, thus saving limited metals while protecting the environment. You’d be surprised at how much we can salvage from one cell phone!
Where to Recycle Your Old Mobile Phones
GreenCitizen offers free cell phone recycling in the San Francisco Bay area at our Burlingame EcoCenter. Drop off your devices and we’ll take care of the rest! SF Bay area businesses can also sign up for our convenient business pick-up.
For those outside of San Francisco wondering where to recycle their old cell phones, please visit the Recycling Center Search at earth911.com.
Thank you for doing your part for the environment. If you have any questions about cell phone recycling, please give us a call at (650) 493-8700 or chat with us online!
James Kao is the founder/CEO of GreenCitizen, which provides products and services that help make every day Earth Day. He’s passionate about data and sustainability, with a deep background in launching, funding, and managing successful tech companies. James enjoys spending quality time with his family, hiking, traveling, watching well-made documentaries, and eating good healthy food. read more »