Good smartphones are now cheap, which means good smartphones are now disposable.
According to the EPA, some 130 million smartphones are added to landfills every year. The lead, mercury, cadmium and other scary-sounding internal ingredients found inside can leak into groundwater and eventually find their way back into your mouth via the food chain.
We’re not just throwing away quality handsets, but also perfectly usable quality handsets, which can turn around and be resold.
But even an old iPhone with a cracked screen and dead battery still has use. Again, according to the EPA, every million smartphones recycled in the US results in 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium.
So whether intended for reuse, or set for recycling, don’t ever just throw your smartphone away.
Donate Your Smartphone to a Good Cause
A growing variety of nonprofit organizations are more than willing to take your old smartphone off your hands and put it to significantly better use than it would see in a landfill. Here are just a few suggestions.
Cell Phones for Soldiers is a nonprofit agency that’ll take your old mobile device (including flip phones, smartphones, tablets, even MP3 players) off your hands. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t send these devices to soldiers in the field – instead, they recycle these devices for money and channel your donation into prepaid international calling cards that soldiers can use to place calls to family and friends while they’re deployed. They’ll even offer to send you a shipping label, and your donation is tax deductible.
The Cell Phones for Soldiers website specifies the need for “gently used” devices, so if you’re looking to get rid of an old iPhone with a cracked screen, this may not be the best option for you.
The carriers themselves have their own established charitable contribution channels, like Verizon’s HopeLine, which takes smartphones of any make, model or condition and uses them to help victims of domestic abuse. Smartphones in good enough condition to be refurbished are resold, with the proceeds going to various domestic violence nonprofits. Often times, these proceeds go to buy usable phones for victims, but even phones that can’t be refurbished are stripped for parts, which are recycled for cash. That cash is then donated to various advocacy and prevention agencies. Please note, donations to HopeLine aren’t tax deductible.
Recycling for Charities takes old phones, iPods, digital camera and PDAs and lets you pick the charity the recycling proceeds go to. You’ll have to pick up the tab for shipping, however.
Gizmogul operates in a similar fashion, but it lets you kill two birds with one stone: you get paid, and the company donates money to help build schools across the globe. The donation is $1 per transaction generated.
Sell it Online
Not everyone’s a technophile who demands next-gen technology the moment it’s available. There are actually people in this world who’d be perfectly happy to own an iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S5. If you’ve got a few of these lying around, you could turn them into cold, hard cash by selling them to folks who’ll put them to use.
You can still use ancient, last-century platforms like eBay and Craigslist, but we suggest checking out some of the sites below.
- Apple Buyback
- Samsung Upgrade
For example, you can sell a well-cared-for T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S5 through Glyde for between $95 and $145 (the lower you set the price, the quicker it’s likely to sell). Over at Buyback World, you can sell a 64GB iPhone 5S that’s in excellent condition for $77. If you’ve got an unlocked 32GB Nexus 6 in good condition, listing it on Gazelle will fetch you about $105.
Putting Your Old Smartphone to Work
You can always recycle your old smartphone by putting it to work for yourself.
For example, you can install any number of security apps (some free, some pay) that can turn your spare smartphone into a home security camera that you can access remotely to check in on your digs or your dogs. While this requires that your phone is still operational, you can get past the need to have cellular signal by connecting it via your home Wi-Fi signal. Apps like Alfred and Presence are functional across Android and iOS devices and can save you money on expensive security cameras.
Other uses for spare, disused smartphones abound – including leaving it in your living room to be used as a multi-purpose remote control for your TV, keeping it permanently plugged into your home stereo for streaming music services like Pandora, or pairing it with a Chromecast as a Netflix box.
Want to learn more about buying a smartphone? Read all about network technology, including LTE, GSM, and CDMA. And then read all about no-contract smartphone data plans and pricing. Finally, learn all about smartphone specs, the differences between iOS and Android, choosing the right data plan, and buying an unlocked smartphone.