How to recycle or donate your old Android phone
Experts suggest that 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of worldwide every year. We need to make sure we’re doing what we can to help manage it all.
How many phones are you in your house right now? I’m not just talking about the one(s) in your pocket, I’m talking about the ones stuffed in drawers, under other obsolete pieces of electronics that will likely never get looked at again until you wake up one morning determined to clean, and stuff everything in the garbage. Your house may benefit from a good electronics purge every once in a while, but unless these devices are exposed of properly, they usually end up in landfills, wasting the potential to recycle the rare metals and other components responsibly.
Here’s how to do just that: recycle your old Android phones responsibly.
Get all your stuff
Recycling a phone should be treated the same way reselling one is — don’t leave anything personal behind.
Turn the phone on one last time and give it a good once-over. Make sure you’re signed out of any accounts, have uninstalled all the things you’ve accumulated since you first got it and make sure things like pictures and music are taken off the phone (and backed up safely somewhere!). Take care to make sure any on-device address book entries are erased and any credentials you need to log in have been removed.
Never get rid of a phone without clearing your data from it.
Pull out your SIM card and any SD cards you might be using. If you’re recycling an Android phone, we recommend a factory reset and wipe once you’re sure nothing is left stored on the phone.You should also let things restart and skip through the setup process so you can double check that everything is gone.
We’re not trying to imply that anyone at a recycling center is eager to dig through your phone, but you should always protect your privacy.
Sorting it all
You’ll want to separate the electronics from the rest of the stuff. The box, the papers that came with it and the incidental stuff you’ve accumulated and will never use again needs to be gone over so it can go into the proper recycle bin.
Papers, cardboard boxes, and plastic or rubber phone cases can go with your normal household recyclables. The charger, any cables and the phone itself need set aside unless you have a pickup for discarded electronics. You should leave the back of the phone on if it’s removable, and there’s no need to pull off any skins or screen protectors. Use your judgment for other accessories, and a good rule of thumb is that if it needs power from a battery or a cord, it needs to go in the same bin as the phone itself.
Where to take the rest
Not everyone has easy access to a recycling center and some private centers will charge you when they take your stuff. Don’t be discouraged if this describes your situation and be tempted to just toss the whole kit and kaboodle into the trash with the rest of your household waste. Some of the stuff inside a phone — especially the battery — is pretty nasty and is not something we want to be buried in a landfill. Do you want roving bands of mutant super ants? Because that’s how you get roving bands of mutant super ants.
Recycling your phone is easy and it does make a difference.
There are plenty of places that want your old phone. Besides all that nasty battery stuff there are also a number of internal materials worth money to the right person. Aluminum. Copper. Gold. All of these fetch a good amount of cash if you have enough of it. You won’t find enough in one old phone to make it worth the time to retrieve it, but there are people and companies who collect enough old things to make it worthwhile for them. You don’t even need to look for those folks because they have bins at places you probably already visit.
Chances are the place you buy phones, like your carrier, will also take old ones back. They don’t want to have something with their name on it responsible for those super ants, and many of them have ongoing relationships with electronics recycling companies. Best Buy is another place that you can drop off an old phone, and you’ll find a bin right at the entrance. And if you purchase by mail you can ask for a prepaid bag to send your recyclable phone back in. Samsung has its own electronics recycling program, for both its own products and others.
If all else fails, ask the people who pick up your recycle bins.
Canadians can donate their devices at most carrier stores, or at drop-off locations hosted by Recycle My Cell across the country.
If your phone still works
If you want to recycle your phone because it no longer works, the above directions are the right way to do it. But if your phone is still functional, just not desirable, there are plenty of ways to donate it to the right cause.
In the U.S., organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers and Verizon’s HelpLine are wonderful ways to donate old devices, either for people to use, or for them to sell to raise money on their own.
We’ve only got one planet. Until we figure out a way to pack it all up and fly to some place better we all need to do everything we can to keep it clean and super ant free. Taking five minutes to sort out a phone and charger from your everyday refuse is easy and finding some place to take it isn’t difficult, either.