What to do with your old cell phone

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It’s a decision you face whenever you upgrade to a new phone: What to do with your old one? While cleaning out my bedside table this a.m. I discovered my very first dinosaur of a cell phone.  My first thought was to dump it in the trash – WRONG!

Your decision to trash your old cell can have serious consequences. Not only do cell phones contain copper, plastics and various other precious metals, they also contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury and arsenic. If incinerated, these substances can pollute the air and leach into groundwater in landfills.

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According to the Recycle My Cell Phone campaign, there are more than 500 million used cell phones in the U.S. sitting on shelves or in our landfills, and another 130 million will be added this year alone. The problem is growing at a rate of more than 2 million phones per week! recycling cell phone

Recycling used cell phones can conserve natural resources and prevent pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, recycling 1 million phones would save enough energy to power more than 19,000 U.S. homes for a year.

However, in 2007, only 18% of the 2.25 million tons of discarded cell phones, TVs and computer products were collected for recycling in the U.S., and 82% were disposed of. The remainder of this so-called e-waste was disposed of primarily in landfills.


AT&T’s Reuse and Recycle program aims to make recycling easy and accessible. And that’s where you come in. Consumers can donate unwanted wireless phones, PDAs, accessories (such as chargers, headsets, etc.) and certain batteries for recycling, regardless of your wireless provider.

cell_phone_in_bath Even if your phone is broken, its working parts will be removed and “new” phones will be assembled from the usable parts. All unusable materials and batteries are sent to an EPA-certified partner to dispose of in a non-harmful way.

AT&T also uses the funds from recycled cell phones to equip active duty military members with prepaid phone cards to call their families. The initiative, called Cell Phones for Soldiers, has raised more than $1 million and distributed more than 75,000 phone cards to overseas soldiers.

Visit one of the 2000 wireless store locations across the country to drop off your used cell phone(s). If you don’t live near a company-owned retail store location, you can mail it with postage-paid labels downloaded from AT&T’s website.

You may want to check around locally.  In my town the local high school collects old cell phones and redeems them for cash.

Before recycling, protect your privacy with these tips:

•Disconnect service

•Turn off power

•Remove your phone’s SIM card, if applicable

•Erase your contacts, photos, messages and other stored information.

Read your owner’s manual or visit the manufacturer’s website for instructions for deleting personal information. You can also access the data eraser for all the tools you need to remove personal information.

One thought on “What to do with your old cell phone

  1. Good for you, Emily! I’ve even seen receptacles for recycling cell phones in places like Office Depot! Keep on keeping folks informed about ways to help save Mother Earth!

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