How To Recycle Phones?

More than 5.3 billion cell phones were thrown away in 2022, estimates the international Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE).

Let's dig deep into phone recycling process.

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Why Should You Recycle Cell Phones?

Mountains of valuable minerals like gold, copper, and cobalt ended up in landfills all around the planet. Cell phone recycling returns much of those minerals into production, saving the natural resources and energy needed to mine them all over again.

Let me share some basic phone recycling knowledge and guide you through the cell phone recycling process.

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Reduce toxic waste - Cell phones contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. When you throw away your old phone in the garbage, these toxic materials can leak into the environment and contaminate the soil and water resources.

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Prevent health problems - E-waste is often exported to developing countries where heaps of scrap electronics are often burned in unregulated landfills. These practices lead to a series of health problems, including lead poisoning, cancer, and developmental issues in newborns.

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Reuse precious minerals - Call phones are made with valuable minerals that are becoming increasingly scarce and yet to be recovered from old phones. One million recycled cell phones contain 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, and 75 pounds of gold.

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Conserve energy - Reclaiming precious metals from old cell phones requires much less energy than mining and refining them from ore. One recycled cell phone saves enough energy to charge a laptop for about 44 hours.

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Help those in need - If your cell phone is still working, you can donate it to a charity that can sell it or give it to a family that can’t afford one.

What Materials/Parts Can You Retrieve From Old Phones?

Parts Retrieved Materials Through Recycling
Plastic cases Plastic can be recycled if it doesn't contain too much non-plastic contamination. Recycled plastic is processed into pellets and used to produce a range of new products, like pallets or bins.
Aluminum Used for cases and components, aluminum is one of the most recyclable materials. Aluminum is melted in a furnace and rolled into sheets to create new products.
Precious metals Gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and copper are used for circuit boards as great conductors. The metals are extracted, separated, and processed to be reused again.

How to Recycle Cell Phones?


Use E-waste recyclers

The safest option is to bring your old cell phone to a certified electronic waste recycler. Before recycling your phone, reputable recyclers will make sure all data is physically destroyed, for which you get a certificate.

Phone Manufacturer

Try manufacturer/seller takeback programs

Major phone manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, and Google, as well as some wireless network companies, have trade-in programs where you can return your old phone and get a credit or discount.

Donate Phone


If your phone is still working, don’t send it to the shredder. Most charities accept old cell phones. Medic, Cellphone for Soldiers, and EcoCell are just some examples. Just make sure you do a background check with charities. You don’t want your phone to end up in the wrong hands.

Sell Phone


It’s a noble thing to donate. But if you could use some cash, there’s nothing wrong with selling your old phone online. You can try your local ads or Facebook groups, but if you don’t like meeting strangers in person, your best chance is eBay.

Where to Recycle Old Cell Phones?

So I’ve chosen the greenest option but don’t know where to recycle my phone. Here’s what we offer.

Drop-off Recycling (For Individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area) 

If you have a bunch of old phones just lying around, and you live in the San Francisco Bay Area,
the easiest way to dispose of them safely is to bring them to our EcoCenter in Burlingame. 

We’ll recycle your cell phones free of charge — no hidden fees.

Business Recycling Pickup (For Businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area)

GreenCitizen offers a convenient pick-up service for businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. You don’t have to go anywhere.
 Just contact our Business Pickup Service, and we’ll collect our phones together with other electronics you need recycled.

Mail-in Recycling (US-Wide Service)

Hey, but I live outside the San Francisco Bay Area and can’t find cell phone recycling near me. Don’t worry, we got you covered. Send us your phone through our Mail-in Electronic Recycling Service, and we’ll recycle it, making sure to protect your data and privacy.

Green Directory (US-Wide Service)

Last but not least, our Green Directory Service helps you find the nearest registered and certified business that recycles cell phones wherever you live in the US. Search for the item to recycle, enter your location or ZIP code, and you get a list of the nearest recycling centers and drop-off locations. Saves both time and gas.

DISCLOSURE *: GreenCitizen is passionate about making every day Earth Day for the people and businesses we serve. We introduce only those green products and services that we believe can help our customers reduce waste and environmental damage.
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