Going Green: What Should You Do with Your Old Phone?

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Tuohy
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When it comes to today’s smartphones, there’s always a shiny, newer device out there to tempt you. Most phones should last at least 4 to 6 years, but with technology moving so fast, it’s not uncommon to feel like your two-year-old device is obsolete.

Thankfully, smartphones are one of the easiest electronics to recycle, and there are many ways to put your old phone to good use. If you’re looking to upgrade, keep the Three R’s in mind when disposing of your old device.


Giving your old phone to someone who needs or wants it may not prevent new devices from entering the market, but if more people did, it could certainly put a small dent in demand. When it comes to the environment, every little step counts!

If you’re looking to hand your phone down, consider asking your family members if they’re looking for a new device, giving it to your son or daughter, donating it to a local charity (or a national one like Cellphones For Soldiers), or selling it online using a site such as gazelle.com, eBay.com, or swappa.com.


There are so many new ways you can put your old Android or Apple smartphone to use. Even if you’ve stopped paying for the monthly cellular data plan, your old phone can still do much of what it used to over WiFi and Bluetooth. Remember, it’s a computer, and just like any other computer, all it needs is a little tinkering and some new software to have a whole new purpose. For example, you can turn your phone into:

A remote control for your TV/Smart Home.

Download just the apps you need to run your home’s connected devices. Put the phone on a charging stand in the living room for a handy home control device.

A dedicated video conferencing device.

Do you work from home and do a lot of video conferences? Buy a charging dock for your old phone and set it up exclusively for Skype, Lync, or Duo chats.

A distraction-free consumption device.

Remove all the apps from your phone and load it up with just music, digital books, and magazines — if they’re downloaded to the phone, you can access them without WiFi.

A child’s first phone.

Kids under 12 who are begging their parents for a phone generally just want it for games and messaging friends. Pre-load the phone with just what you want them to have access to (such as the Kindle app and a messaging app that works over WiFi), then lock down the App store so they can’t download anything else. Put a few games on there, too, and choose ones that don’t need an always-on Internet connection so they can use it out of the house.


If your phone is unusable or broken beyond repair, make sure it’s recycled properly. The plastics and metals from smartphones can be melted down and resold (one ton of melted aluminum can go for up to $1,000), and it’s a lucrative proposition for recycling companies. Check out Call2Recycle for a drop-off location near you.

Many manufacturers and retail businesses have trade-in/recycle programs, so you can send your device to them to be recycled, or even get some money for it if it’s still in usable condition. If it does still work, they’ll give your old phone a new life by sprucing it up and reselling it as “refurbished” or by shipping it off to be resold in bulk.

Sell it back to your carrier.

If your smartphone is in excellent working condition and you just want to upgrade to the latest and greatest model, take it back to your phone carrier and put its value toward the cost of your new device.

As you can see, there are many ways to make sure your old phone doesn’t end up in a landfill. Just remember to erase any personal data before passing it on by going into “Settings” and looking for the option to “Factory Reset” or “Erase all Content and Settings.”

Jennifer Pattison Tuohy is a freelance writer and contributor for Xfinity Mobile. She writes about green living, mobile phone technology, consumer tech, and small businesses for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications.

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