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What Can I Do With My Old Cell Phone?

Old cell phones can be recycled or donated.
Check into programs where the manufacturer or store will take back used cell phones, sometimes giving cash or store credit in return.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
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Many cell phone users do not know what to do with an old cell phone when a contract ends. In most cases, cellular providers will replace the phone with a newer model, but provide no information on how to safely dispose of the old one. If you are switching providers, the old phone is made doubly useless because it often will not work with the new service.

There are a number of options for properly disposing of an old cell phone, starting with the manufacturer. In recent years, many manufacturers have begun to take responsibility for their obsolete products, and it often is possible to return an old model to the manufacturer for recycling. Most cell phone manufacturers have corporate websites that you can visit to get information on how to turn in a phone.

An old cell phone can also be donated, and a number of programs around the world refurbish used cell phones for a variety of uses. In some areas, cell phones are distributed to victims of domestic violence so that they can call for help. In other areas, groups refurbish and sell them to raise money for a variety of charities, ranging from animal causes to children’s charities. In developing nations, the phones are distributed to people in rural areas to help them get connected with each other.

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Several companies have programs that buy used phones. You may be able to get a small amount of cash for your phone, especially if you pool yours with those of friends to create a large shipment. These companies can also be found on the Internet, where the website will provide mailing information and tell you how much the company is willing to pay per device.

In some cases, you can return an old cell phone to the store you purchased it from because many stores are obligated to accept returned merchandise of this kind. The store will package your phone for recycling or donation. In many parts of the United States, companies that sell electronic equipment are legally required to handle their safe disposal.

Don't just throw your old cell phone away. Cell phones contain batteries, which should not be put in landfills. In addition, many contain heavy metals that can contaminate the earth around a landfill. Make sure that your phone will be properly disposed of by returning it to a facility equipped to recycle or refurbish this type of equipment. The choice to donate the phone to charity, sell it, or put the burden on the manufacturer or dealer is yours.

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Discuss this Article

StarJo
Post 15

My office put out an old cell phone donation box last year. The phones were going to the needy, and many people brought their old ones in.

The drive was intended just for employees, but when customers saw the box, they were happy to get rid of their old phones. We had about twenty donated just from customers.

Simply putting out a box at your workplace can benefit both people wondering how to dispose of their old phones and people who need phones. You might be surprised by how many phones you would get.

healthy4life
Post 14

I always keep my old cell phones in case I need them someday. I was glad that I did this a few years ago when my phone stopped working.

If I hadn't kept my old phone, I wouldn't have had any means of communication until the replacement arrived. I ordered it that day, but still, it took about three days to arrive in the mail.

cloudel
Post 13

@wavy58 – There are several electronics scrapping places that would love to have your cell phone. They even send you a check for it.

My brother contacted one of these places, and they sent him a free shipping label. He mailed the phone to them in a box, and they sent him a check a few weeks later.

It may sound a little risky sending out the phone without first getting payment. However, if all you really wanted was to get rid of it anyway, you wouldn't lose out if the company didn't pay you.

wavy58
Post 12

I can't donate or sell my old cell phone, because the reason I stopped using it was because a couple of buttons had stopped working. It became impossible to press the space bar key when text messaging, so I had to put periods after every word in a message instead.

Since the space bar key is also the key for the number 0, I know that this phone wouldn't be good to pass off on another person. Personally, I would be very disappointed if I got a free or cheap phone given to me only to find out it was defective.

I am wanting to give it to some organization that uses the parts for scraps. Is it possible to find such a place?

discographer
Post 11

@fBoyle-- No, they're really old cell phones. One is broken, the other one isn't broken but I think the battery is dead. So the battery would have to be changed if someone wanted to use it.

I don't think these would be of use to anyone. I did call the company though and they gave me an address to mail the phones to. So that's good news.

fBoyle
Post 10

@alisha-- Are they still in working condition?

If they are, you can donate them to welfare organizations that work with the poor and homeless in your area.

I actually live in an area where there are a lot of homeless. They usually can't afford to get a cell phone because cell phone prices are ridiculous. So you could just give it away to them or donate to an organization who can deliver it to them for you.

discographer
Post 9

I have a couple of old cell phones sitting in my drawer. I'm so glad I came across this article because I literally was about to throw them away. Oops! I wasn't aware that cell phones are dangerous for landfills and the environment.

Why don't supermarkets have special containers for old cell phones (maybe along with other electronics) like they do for batteries? That would make my life a lot easier.

I'm going to look into it and see if I can sell it off and make some cash. If not, I'll guess I'll have to contact the place I got it from and see if they'll take it back. I just wish there was an easier and less time consuming way to do this.

anon122034
Post 6

I also think that using your old electronics as a base for fundraising can be not only productive, but fun. I used a website to sell electronics and they helped me through the entire process. After they received my items, they sent me a check in the mail about a week later.

GlassAxe
Post 5

@ Chicada- An old cell phone fundraiser is a great idea. I helped my sister, who is in high school organize an ink cartridge fundraiser to help children afford school supplies. We were able to raise almost $1000 over a few weeks by trading in old ink cartridges to the office supply store. When the rebate check came back, we bought as many school supplies as we could afford and gave them to her high school to donate to other kids who could not afford them. All they had to do was show up to the office and take what they needed.

chicada
Post 4

@ Anon12468- I would definitely recommend getting rid of your old cell phone this way. It will likely be recycled or refurbished, and if you are selling it for a charity, the payment for this service is even better. You may want to even consider having a cell phone recycling drive for your charity. I would think that most people have an old or broken cell phone lying around that they would be willing to donate. I know I have four or five old phones that are in a shoebox in my closet. I never knew what to do with them, and I don't throw electronics in the garbage.

anon12468
Post 2

I've heard of websites that will exchange your old phone for cash. I'm thinking it would be a good idea for raising funds for charity which I am intending to do later this year. Would you guys recommend this way of disposing old cellphones?

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