eCycling: Recycling Your Electronics

Celebrate National Cell Phone Recyclying Week by donating your old phone

I love getting a new cell phone. It only happens once every couple of years and requires adjusting to new ring tones, buttons, etc. But that’s part of the fun. Once I’ve made the switch, however, I’m never quite sure where, or how, to recycle my old phone. It seems I’m not the only one.

Each year, only 10% of cell phones get recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That means these devices sit in landfills, never biodegrading, and that their leftover juice doesn’t get reused. EPA data show that recycling a million cell phones could generate enough electricity to power 18,500 homes for a whole year.

Most people don’t know where to drop off their used devices—or even that they can. But the EPA is hoping to change that. National Cell Phone Recycling Week, April 6 – 12, is part of the agency’s “Plug-In to eCycling” effort to spread the word about how to trash electronics in an eco-friendly way. The program’s website is chock full of information.

With less than two weeks until Earth Day, what better time to learn how to recycle your old cell phone (and other electronics)? The EPA offers some simple suggestions about where to donate:

  • Online or in stores for companies like Dell, Apple, Sony, Best Buy or Staples
  • Your local recycling center
  • A shop that repairs electronics
  • A charity

Also consider sending your phone to a company like, which, as its name suggests, recycles your old device—either by melting it down, reusing the parts, or refurbishing and reselling it—and then plants a tree in a desolate or environmentally needy area. The company, whose motto is “Your Used Cell Phone = One Newly Planted Tree,” even provides a pre-paid shipping label.

Next time I get a new phone, I know exactly how I’ll dispose of my old one. Now I just have to wait for my contract to expire.

(Note: In Audubon’s May-June 2008 issue, read what happened when writer Ellen Ruppel Shell followed her recycled electronic devices from the recycling center where she left it.)

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