Mobile Future

Recycling Your Mobile Device

As cell phone technology becomes increasingly innovative, the shelf life of consumers’ cell phones becomes shorter and shorter. Currently, the average American gets a new mobile phone every 18 months, according to Inform, a New York organization with a mission to "educate the public about the effects of human activity on the environment and public health." The old phones either get thrown away or linger around the house taking up space. Less than 20 percent of those cell phones are recycled. With more than 250 million wireless users in the United States, the waste adds up.

In order to combat increasing amounts of hazardous electronic waste, the EPA has partnered with electronic manufacturers and retailers "to offer consumers more opportunities to donate or recycle their used electronics" through the Plug-In to eCycling Program. You can find out more about their program here, but we’ve condensed the information into five ways that you can recycle your old, unused cell phones. However, before you recycle your phone, remember to:

  • Terminate your service.
  • Clear the phone’s memory of contacts and other stored information.
  • Remove your phone’s SIM card (if applicable).


5 Ways to Recycle Phones:
1. Wireless Carriers
All the major wireless providers – Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Alltel will accept donations of cell phones in their stores regardless of the cell phones’ manufacturer or carrier. Simply walk into a store and let the employees know that you would like to recycle your phone, and they will help take care of the rest. More

2. Electronics Stores
In addition to carriers, electronics stores, such as Best Buy, Office Depot and Staples, are also major suppliers of cell phones and are concerned about the effects of electronic waste. As a result, these companies have also instituted in-store programs to aid mobile phone recycling. In each store, there are collection areas where you can drop-off your cellular phone for recycling. More

3. Cell Phone Manufacturers
Many of the major cell phone manufacturers – LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson – offer mail-in options for recycling your cell phones regardless of the cell phones’ carrier or manufacturer. You’ll need appropriate packing materials to mail your phone, but the manufacturers take care of the postage with pre-paid labels that you can print out. Some additional considerations to remember when mailing your phone:

  • If you’re including batteries, please ensure that the battery is fully discharged and your phone is powered off. Please do not include any loose batteries.
  • Place phones in appropriate packaging/envelope. There’s no need to add extra packaging materials.
  • Print the pre-paid postage and affix it to the package. Make sure any previous delivery address and barcodes are covered.
  • Drop off the package/envelope in the mail.

4. My Green Electronics
The Consumer Electronics Association operates a Web site called My Green Electronics.  The site connects consumers wishing to purchase green products and/or looking for local options to recycle or donate used electronics. The site has a zip code tool allowing users to find their local recycling options are displayed. More

5. U.S. Postal Service
The U.S. Postal Service is testing a pilot program that allows consumers to discard used electronics. The pilot program involves 1,500 post offices providing free envelopes that can be used to mail back electronics, such as inkjet cartridges, cell phones and MP3 players. The pre-paid envelopes are located in post office lobbies. Presently, the program supports 10 areas, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., but it may expand in the fall if the program is successful. More