Going Green: Green Cell Phones and Cell Phone Recycling

Let's Go Green on FlickrStarting today, I will be doing Going Green features every first Friday of the month. I know I’m not nearly as “green” as I should be, and I hope that by focusing on one issue a month, I will inspire both you and me to think a little more about everyday decisions we make that affect our planet.

Up first is a bit of information on cell phones. Are you in the market for a new cell phone and also concerned about the environment? Read on.

Choosing a New “Green” Cell Phone

Samsung E200 EcoSo the time has come to buy a new cell phone, but you still want to keep the environment in mind. Some of your best “green” cell phone choices are:

  • Samsung E200 Eco
  • Nokia 3110 Evolve
  • T700 Sony Ericsson

These are all made with eco-friendly materials, packaged in recyclable boxes and bio-plastic, which dissolves in water. The phones themselves even have “green” features, such as the Samsung’s alarm that tells you when recharging is finished so you’re not needlessly using electricity.

So, you have a new cell phone; now what should you do with the old one?

Recycle Your Old Cell Phone

Discarded electronic equipment, or “e-waste,” has become one of the most serious threats to our environment. When cell phones are simply chucked in the garbage, lead, mercury, and cadmium leaked from them into landfills can become real environmental and health hazards.

If you’re in the market for a new cell phone, first you should think about how you’ll recycle your old one. Only a handful of US states require cell phone sellers to provide a free way for consumers to recycle used phones, so you may have to do your own homework; here is a short list of ways to recycle your old cell phone to get you started:

1. Recycle your cell phone through the manufacturer or seller. If your cell phone seller doesn’t have a recycling program, the phone manufacturer probably does: AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Apple, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and T-Mobile all have cell phone recycling programs.

1000 Mobiles on Flickr2. Give your cell phone to someone. Whether it’s to your mother who has resisted cell phones up till now or to your young son who has been bugging you to buy him one, passing along your cell phone to someone else will lengthen its life for just a little while longer. Be sure to mention cell phone recycling to the recipient so she will consider responsibly disposing of the phone when she’s done with it.

3. Donate your cell phone. Many charities accept old cell phones as donations including CellPhonesforSoldiers.com and The Support Network for Battered Women.

Find other organizations that accept old cell phones at Charitable Recycling. And why not organize your own cell phone recycling drive if you want to get further involved?

Have you recycled a cell phone?

Please feel free to leave more recycling and green cell phone ideas (including other organizations that accept cell phone donations) in the comments!

20 Beans of Wisdom to “Going Green: Green Cell Phones and Cell Phone Recycling”
  1. Michelle, what a great idea. I look forward to reading more about going green.

    Yes I have recycled phones. One a donated, the other were dropped off at Verizon.

    That photo is beautiful.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Flashback Friday – Sense and Sensibility

    I know, isn’t that photo awesome? Click on it for more “green” info too 🙂 Hey if you have any topic in particular you’d like to read about, do let me know!

  2. Gil

    We’ve brought old cell phones to a soup kitchen. They donate them to people without phones to use to call emergency services. Cell phones sold in the USA are all supposed to call emergency services whether or not they have active service. Most of these phones can also be used to call customer service of the service provider that the phone was hooked up to.

    I loved seeing containers to recycle batteries in the various supermarkets we visited in Spello and Foligno. I always wonder where they go from the bins. I’m sure some just end up being dumped into the regular trash.

    I often wonder the same thing Gil….

  3. casalba

    Great post, Michelle. I’m on my second ever cell phone and both were hand-me-downs from people who wanted something fancier – I’m past the age where I care about what folk think about this “fashion accessory/status symbol”. Just as well as this is balanced out by my 15 year old nephew who has needed brand new phones on his last three visits here. So, my green tip would be: don’t buy swimming trunks with pockets for 15 year old boys!

    Hah, that’s an excellent tip!

  4. 02.06.2009

    Very interesting post, considering the hubby just asked me if I wanted his old phone. He works for one of the big cell phone manufacturers and the company gives him a new phone once a year. So far we haven’t thrown any of our old ones out but now I’m going to see if there’s a phone recycling service in Italy.

    milanese masala’s last blog post..Becks: Milan forever, Galaxy never?

    See the link I included for Willym–there should be some info there for you 🙂

  5. 02.06.2009

    I’d say check with your local electronics store. Best Buy here takes old cell phones, you just drop them in a box right inside the door.

    andrea’s last blog post..The Adult’s Guide to Excitement

    Great tip Andrea, thanks!

  6. 02.06.2009

    Is there the same sort of programme here in Italy? I know that theoretically in Roma we’re into recycling our garbage but when I see the overflowing bins I’m never sure how successful it really is.

    Willym’s last blog post..Cats Amongst the Cloisters

    I know how you feel, Willym. You can check this site for locations of electronic drop-offs near you:


  7. 02.06.2009

    Thank you for writing this…you made me remember where I left my cell phone (charging the battery in the living room at home)!

    Hah, we can never know how our posts will touch others 😉

  8. 02.06.2009

    i gave my handphone to my little sister…
    but later she sold it coz the fon are outdated…

    dr_iqmal’s last blog post..Did U Know…? (part 1)

    Hah, well selling is recycling too I suppose 😉

  9. 02.06.2009

    Your “Going Green” posts are a great idea! I do want to get a new cell phone, but it will probably be a few months before it happens.

    All my old cell phones I’ve donated to the programs for battered women. It’s pretty easy. Just bring them to the police station and they do the rest.

    Anali’s last blog post..Happy World Nutella Day 2009!

    Great tip about the police station! Thanks 🙂

  10. 02.06.2009

    Thanks for the useful info! I have never recycled a cell phone, basically because I only get a new one if the old one has completely died. My last phone fell into the sea, splash! It started vibrating like nobody’s business and eventually died a quiet death!

    saretta’s last blog post..Window Grate

    Well you never know what parts can be salvaged, right? I use my phones until they’re dead too, but they’re probably fixable…a lot of the time, though, it costs less to just get a new one.

  11. M,
    I am with you on the *green* wagon. I make an effort to reduce, reuse, recycle and any other *re I can when possible. I think we’ve just been pushed to be more aware even though there have for many years been people practising *green* living. It’s been really exciting discovering all the companies and people promoting and encouraging living green. I love it!
    ps. I can’t remember the name or details but quite a while ago I watched a segment about a jewelry designer/maker, I believe he was Australian, using the metals found in discarded mobile phones to create beautiful jewelry. I loved his stuff. It’s a small amount in each mobile and of course effort and work to scrap it but the sheer amount adds up. Interesting, non? : )

    Very interesting! Would love to read more about him on your blog sometime (hint hint) 😉

  12. 02.08.2009

    Great idea to do green posts! My cell phone is so old, I get laughed at when I show it to salespeople in cell phone stores. I have been looking for a new phone for a while because my current phone’s battery is slowly dying. I have decided to find an unlocked quad band phone – not a simple task. Regarding recycling, my school collects phones to recycle. We get money for them. Not sure where they go, but I think quite a few schools do this now. Much better than having the phone end up in a landfill and it helps out schools at the same time. Looking forward to your next green post 🙂

    girasoli’s last blog post..“bridge(s)”~ PhotoHunt

    Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for the tip on schools…another great option for cell phone donating!

  13. Hi Michelle. 🙂 Great stuff.

    I agree, the way phones are currently disposed of is inadequate, as is the way they’re made, and the materials they are made from. A device that gets upgraded (ie. disposed of) every 18 months needs to biodegrade or be easily recycled. It’d be great if somewhere down the road, handsets were made of some kind of cellulose plastic or cornstarch material – something renewable that doesn’t linger in landfills too long before it dissolves.

    But there’s another key green issue with mobile phones: radiation. And to me, that’s much more worrying. Electromagnetic radiation has the potential to damage or alter living tissue, and it can also affect wildlife, such as addling the natural ability of birds to use the Earth’s magnetic field to guide their migrations. Mobile phones now exist worldwide in such terrifically vast numbers that the effect of radiation is a serious worry…..

    If you’re getting a new mobile phone, look for the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) rating – the lower the better.


    Mikeachim / Mike at Ecosalon’s last blog post..Eco Links to Green Your Weekend

    Thanks so much for that tip, Mike…I’m looking forward to reading more of your tips as wel 🙂

  14. 02.08.2009

    hey girlie girl.. .just yesterday i was thinking how much i’d love to have a green blackberry! that’d be so awesome. i need to do something cause-worthy like this for the environment as well. kudos u to you!

    Hmmm would that be a greenberry. Hahahahhahaa! Ahem. Looking forward to reading your green stuff 😉

  15. 02.09.2009

    My cell phone recycling comes from letting my kids use my old cell phones as toy phones. They love them and it keeps the slobber off my blackberry.

    Hah, slobberless phones are definitely a good thing, Job 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  16. 02.09.2009

    Hi Michelle! I’m back after an extended break. I really like your Going Green idea! What a great reminder to everyone! I’ve recycled a couple of cell phone to the Cell Phones for Soldiers charity.

    Great to see you again Lulu! Hey if you want to do a Going Green post here or at your place, please let me know (and that goes for everyone!) 🙂

  17. 02.09.2009

    My last cell phone was a 3 year-old giant thing. When I got a new phone, I emailed my whole family, because I figured one of my zillions of relatives could use it and sure enough, my SIL was looking for that exact phone…something about it working on her network better than other phones…but anyway, she got a phone she wanted and I didn’t have to trash mine.

    Cell phone destiny! Love it Suebob 🙂

  18. DarrenBeck

    Michelle – Great article. You’re right. Phone manufacturing can be more eco-friendly. And, cell phones need to be designed with the end in mind. Sprint is working with manufacturing partners to find ways to bring more environmentally friendly phones to market. We’re also exploring ways to add content and applications to the phones that will help consumers live greener lives.

    In addition, we offer a couple of free and easy options for recycling phones at http://www.sprint.com/recycle. Customers can receive up to $50 for returning phones, and anyone can recycle with Sprint Project Connect to support Internet safety for kids. I encourage anyone with unused cell phones at home to consider these or other programs, because the fact is most cell phones do not get recycled.

    The national recycling rate for cell phones is only about 10%. The remainder are destined for landfills, unless we each take action. Thanks again for bringing attention to the subject. I look forward to catching your “Going Green” posts each month.

    Excellent Darren–thanks so much for the info on Sprint!

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Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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