In a drawer, on a dusty shelf: Somewhere in your home, you probably have a graveyard of old electronics. At the least, you likely have an old cell phone, which is the electronic device being retired most frequently, according to Consumers Union.
More than 750 million cell phones lie unused in the United States, and the small devices can have big effects on our health if, when evicted from the drawer, they are disposed of in landfills instead of recycled properly. Like computers and televisions, cell phones contain lead and mercury, two elements that cause damage to the brain and peripheral nervous system if they enter our water supply via landfills.
So how can you get rid of an old phone and ensure that its toxic components don’t end up in a landfill? Consider recycling it through one of the following free and easy services.
Most Best Buy stores have recycling kiosks located near the front entrance where shoppers can drop off cell phones, pagers, ink cartridges and batteries to be recycled in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s electronic waste standards.
Call to Protect
Proceeds from the sale of donated cell phones go to organizations fighting domestic violence, and phones that can be reused are given to domestic violence survivors. You can mail your phone and its accessories to Call to Protect, or find a nearby drop-off location. Donated phones are tax deductible.
The CollectiveGood.com Trio
CollectiveGood.com: You choose a charity to receive the value of your unwanted phone from a list of more than 500 organizations. If you would like to receive a donation acknowledgement from your chosen charity, you must include your contact information when registering on the site. If you prefer not to send a phone yourself, you can take it to a CollectiveGood.com drop-off at any Staples or FedEx Kinko’s in the United States.
GreenPhone.com: A new division of the CollectiveGood.com, this service will actually buy your old phone, and for each phone it purchases from the public, GreenPhone.com plants a tree in Africa, Central or South America, or in areas of U.S. national parks damaged by wildfire.
RIPMobile.com: This service pays for used cell phones in the form of gift certificates to businesses such as Circuit City and Blooming Lotus, an organic body care shop. Or you can have the value of your phone credited to a free PayPal account.
Follow simple registration steps on CollectiveGood.com, GreenPhone.com and RIPMobile.com to generate a form that you print and mail in with your phone and its accessories, along with a free shipping label. Phones that have resell value are cleared of all data, refurbished and sold at a low price throughout developing areas in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Western Asia. This is how each service gets the money for your phone that it passes along to you or your chosen charity. Phones that have no resell value are recycled under a no-landfill policy and in accordance with EPA electronic waste standards. The CollectiveGood.com gang can only pay for working phones, but they can recycle all mobile devices, so send in whatever you have.
Remember to disconnect service before donating your cell phone to any of the services mentioned above. It’s also a good idea to remove all private data from your unwanted cell phone, although the services will do that for you.
Have you recycled an old cell phone or electronic device? Share your experience by posting a comment.
Megan Hirt is an Associate Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on Google+.