Safely Recycle or Donate Your Old Phone

February 7, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

One week you buy a new snazzy smartphone and three months later, a newer better version comes out. With technology moving so fast, it can be hard to keep up sometimes. But what can be more of a challenge is figuring out what to do with the old phone that’s being replaced. Here are a few things to keep in mind and some ideas for what you can do.

Safeguard any sensitive data

First things first – Remove any personal information. A lot of people tend to look this one over. You never know who is going to wind up with your old phone and what they are capable of. There are countless horror stories of those swapping in their old phones and then getting hit with identity theft weeks later. Take a second and think about how much personal information and data you have on your phone. There’s a reason there are passcodes for phones. You don’t want people to be able to access this data, so making sure it’s clean and clear is important.

The first step to take when cleaning your phone is to do a factory reset. Many phones have a simple option within the settings that allows you to do this easily without having to plug your phone into the computer or take it into the store. By doing this factory reset, all of your data is supposed to be removed from the phone. This includes your settings, passwords and everything else.

Tip: Many experts believe that even doing this won’t completely wipe everything on an Android phone. There are additional steps you can take to make sure your Android powered phone is clean on TheWire.

Also, make sure to remove your SIM card. Sometimes, data can be retrieved simply by plugging this card into another phone. If you have an external memory device attached to your phone, such as a SD card, you will want to remove this as well.

Do a double check and make sure that all the data is in fact erased. Simply go through the phone and make sure there is no left over texts, calls, pictures, passwords, or anything else you don’t want people to see. If it looks okay, you’re on to the next step.

And don’t forget to notify your service provider and let them know that the phone is no longer being used.

Recycling, reusing or donating your old phone

Now it’s time to dispose of the phone. There a few ways to do this. The most common is selling the phone, especially if it’s a newer smartphone. Most of these types of phones hold their value very well. Common outlets to sell used phones are Swappa, eBay, and Craigslist. Carriers will often buy back the phone and any of the accessories as well. You can also apply the value of your phone towards your next purchase.

If you don’t think the phone is worth anything, or you don’t want to go through the selling process, there are other options. One of the most common options is to recycle the phone. There are a ton of programs in place for this and they will do all the work for you. The EPA and CTIA have one of the more popular cell recycling programs. TechRepublic has a good list of places to recycle your phone in the U.S. And in the UK, OnRecycle is a popular choice.

You can also put your phone to good use by donating it. There are lots of organizations the take old phones and give them to someone who might not be able to get one otherwise. You can donate it to (If it’s an iPhone they’ll even pay a little for it). If you donate your phone to Hope Phones, they’ll recycle it and use those funds to provide up to 10 new phones for community health workers in different countries. This lets them track outbreaks better, register pregnancies, communicate better for emergencies and keep track of important medicines.

As you can see, there many different options for disposing of your old phone. Whatever route you take, make sure you do your research so you get the most out of your old phone.