How to Reuse or Recycle Old Cell Phones

|When we’re finished with our cell phone

When we’re finished with our cell phone, it’s usually because we can’t wait to get our hands on a newer, sleeker, more powerful model. 

If we’re able to turn the old phone into the dealer and score a discount on our new phone, great! But what happens if there’s no trade-in value?

Well, don’t just chuck it in the trash, pretty please! There’s lots of research showing that the phones we toss every year are seriously harming our planet, since each device is loaded with toxic and hazardous materials. The world throws hundreds of millions of smartphones into landfills every year, and it just isn’t sustainable.

Luckily, there are several ways to reuse and recycle your old cell phone …

1. Donate your old cell phone to someone who could really use it

Not everyone has a cell phone, and there are people out there who could benefit from the one you’re not going to use anymore. In fact, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, cell phones are more important than ever. 

Some hospitals are accepting donations of old cell phones and “prescribing” them to their most vulnerable patients, enabling them to access helpful resources. It’s also nice for them to have the ability to video-call with loved ones they can’t see in person at the moment.

Phones are helpful for people with vision impairments. The CNIB Foundation’s Phone It Forward program refurbishes donated phones for people with vision loss.

Cell Phones for Soldiers is an initiative in the U.S. that accepts phone donations to be passed along to military veterans, many of whom might struggle to afford a new one.

2. Use your old phone in a new way

Just because your phone is running slowly or otherwise “too old” to be your primary device doesn’t mean it can’t be useful for some tasks — like taking pictures, reading books, or waking you up in the morning.

Chances are, your old cell phone might be worth kicking around to use for one of the following reasons:

  • Alarm clock (as long as it can power on, you’re good to go)
  • Music player  (all you need is a Wifi connection and access to YouTube, Apple Music, or Spotify)
  • A camera (snap away, without worrying about filling up your primary phone’s memory)
  • A Virtual Reality headset (as part of a headset mount)
  • A security camera (monitor your home for free with a security app like Alfred)
  • A DashCam (mount it to your dashboard and use an app like Autoboy Dash Cam

3. Recycle your old cell phone

No use for your phone, and you can’t find anyone to donate it to? Cell phones and batteries are one of the easiest electronics to recycle, and the materials can be used in new products. 

There’s probably a phone recycling program nearby, so check out Recycle My Cell, Call 2 Recycle, or Cellular Recycler to find your closest drop-off location.

There are plenty of things to do with your old cell phone — trade it in, donate it, keep it, or recycle it — so just be sure not to trash it. After all, we want to have a planet to keep living on (and texting on) long into the future.