Recycling Your Cell Phone

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Last updated April 12, 2019

The average American gets a new cell phone every 12 to 18 months and usually the cell being replaced is still in good working order. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, of the 98 million cell phones discarded in 2005, only about 20% were recycled. Most of them ended up in a landfill, where they leaked toxic waste into the environment.

Best ways to dispose of an old cell phone

If you do not want your phone ending up in a landfill, there are several things you can do: return it to the manufacturer, donate it a non-profit organization, or sell it to a for-profit recycling program.

How much is my cell phone worth?

If you choose to sell it, the amount you receive is based on the make, model, age and condition. An older, more obsolete phone will pay only a few dollars, but some newer phones can be worth as much as $300. Recyclers also vary in the prices they offer depending on their supply and demand.

What happens to a phone once it is sold

After a cell is sold, there are a few things that can happen. It might be sent to a reclamation plant, where the precious metals are extracted and the plastics are melted down to be used in recycled products. The cell phone might be sold to a refurbishing company which will refurbish the cell and sell it onward. In the US, about three-quarters of refurbished cell phones end up in Latin America, where they are used as pay-as-you-go phones.