We’ve all faced the dilemma of what to do with our old cellphone when we get a new one. We stash it away in a junk drawer, or toss it into a shoebox already stuffed with older models. Putting it out with the trash simply isn’t a good option—this year more than 150 million cellphones will be discarded in the United States alone, way more than we really want to add to our already overburdened landfills.
Fortunately, there are some great ways you can either give your cellphone new life, or dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way. These will take a few minutes of your time, but the reward for the effort far outweighs the cost. With just a few easy steps, you can secure the personal information on your phone, clear out some of your household clutter and, in the best-case scenario, give someone the joy of having a working cellphone they might otherwise not have had.
First, regardless of the fate that awaits your old phone, you should always remove all of your personal data from the device. Start by backing up your contacts to your SIM card, or to your Google account or AppleID. Next, save any photos, music, videos or documents you have on the device to an SD card, a computer, or to cloud storage, like Google Photos, or iCloud.
Then, perform a factory reset. This will wipe away any settings you’ve personalized, and restore the phone’s software to its original state. This not only fully removes your information; it also makes the phone a “blank slate” for another potential user to start with.
To factory reset an Android phone, go to the Settings menu, then to Backup and Reset. Choose Factory Data Reset. For an iPhone, open Settings; go to General, Reset, and Erase All Content and Settings. You’ll need to enter your Apple ID and passcode to complete the process.
If your phone is in good working order, you might consider passing it on to a friend or family member. You can even add additional lines on your existing Consumer Cellular account for them. This lets you share minutes, text messages, and data from your monthly plan. By simply inserting one of our free SIM cards, the new user can activate your old phone, and just like that, you’re sharing connections. As an added bonus, from now until December 31st when you add a line to your account you’ll receive a $20 credit on your next invoice.
You can also donate unwanted cellphones. There are a wide variety of worthy non-profit organizations that find wonderful new uses for used phones, like Cell Phones for Soldiers, which distributes them to military members serving overseas. A simple Google search turns up dozens of good ideas, and many of these groups will even come collect your phone as well.
And if ultimately you decide your phone just needs to be put out to pasture, take a minute to check out recycling resources in your area. Many electronics stores and even municipal locations like public libraries put out recycling collection bins. If you have a smartphone, you can even download the free iRecycle app to find locations in your community.
Your old phone has no doubt been a good companion to you. Even though you may be excited to have a new one, take some time to give this old friend a proper goodbye. You’ll be doing yourself, and old Mother Earth herself a big favor.