What to Do With Old Cell Phones?

By Alexander Grouch

When most people get new cell phones, they either store their old phones in a drawer or toss them in the garbage. According to Environmental Protection Agency statistics, only 10 percent of people properly dispose of their cell phones. Of the remaining out-of-use cell phones, many end up in landfills. As incinerators process the various materials and metals of your old phone, greenhouse gases are released into the environment and nearby water pollution increases. Rather than throw out your old cell phone, donate it or sell it to an agency that redistributes it or disposes of it properly.


While many old cell phones may not function as well as new ones, most old cell phones still work to some extent. For people who can't afford cell phones, an old cell phone is better than no cell phone at all. The EPA's "Plug-In to eCycling" program allows you drop your phone off at participating providers for recycling. Providers will either safely recycle your phone or donate it to a community organization for redistribution. Current Plug-In to eCycling participants include Best Buy, AT&T, Office Depot and Staples. If you don't live near any participants, you can also mail your phone. Visit the EPA's eCycling information site for a complete list of participants and full instructions for cell phone mail-in or drop-off.

Cell Phones for Soldiers

Since 2008, Cell Phones for Soldiers has provided an excellent outlet for cell phone recycling. To participate in the program, drop your phone off at one of its 3,000 donation centers around the country. The center will send your old phone to ReCellular for proper recycling or redistribution. In return, ReCellular pays Cell Phones for Soldiers. With the money, Cell Phones for Soldiers purchases phone cards to donate to American servicemen and women around the world. Since the program started, Cell Phones for Soldiers has purchased more than 12 million phone card minutes (as of 2009). Cell Phones for Soldiers estimates that each donated phone will yield 1 hour of phone card talk time for an American service member. To donate your phone to CPFS, visit their website for a list of location drop-off points or mail your phone to their headquarters. Visit the CPFS website to sign up, print out a free post-paid shipping labels and learn the best way to erase all the data on your old phone.

Sell Your Old Phone

To make money off your old phone, sell it to Cell for Cash. Cell for Cash accepts many cell phone models such as iPhone, Blackberry and Nokia. Cell for Cash then repackages the phones and redistributes them to the Latin American and Caribbean markets. According to Cell for Cash's 2009 fact sheet, the average old phone fetches over $25.The Cell for Cash website provides a simple interface that will show you the exact price you will be paid for your old cell phone. Prices depends on the phone model, features and condition. Once you locate your model on the Cell for Cash website, all you have to do is fill out some personal information and send in your cell phone. After Cell for Cash verifies your phone, you will receive payment within 60 days. Cell for Cash also accepts donated phones.