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10 Benefits of Recycling Electronic Devices

You're about to get the newest iPhone or Android phone. What do you do with your old smartphone? Should you toss it in a drawer at home, in case you need it later on, or throw it in the trash?

While you might want to hang on to your old phone for a little bit, just in case there's a problem with your new one soon after you buy it, what you don't want to do is toss your phone in the trash. Your smartphone is full of precious, rare metals and materials. It's a shame to throw them away. Plus, sending your old phone to the landfill means that it can't take on a second life, either as recycled materials or as a new, refurbished phone for someone else.

Recycling your phone and other electronic devices is a snap, as you can often drop your device in a kiosk and get cash for it right away. You don't have to worry about interacting with a human or waiting for someone to evaluate the condition of your phone or other gadgets.

If you're still on the fence about the benefits of recycling electronics, here are 10 environmental, social and economic reasons to keep your phones and gadgets out of the landfill.

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Keeps Toxic Materials out of Landfills 

When phones and other electronic devices tossed in the landfill, there is a risk that they will leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater.

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Keeps Toxic Materials out of Landfills

When phones and other electronic devices tossed in the landfill, there is a risk that they will leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater.

phone recycle bin

Keeps Toxic Materials
out of Landfills

When phones and other electronic devices tossed in the landfill, there is a risk that they will leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater.

1. Keeps Toxic Materials out of Landfills

There are 83 non-radioactive elements on the periodic table. The typical smartphone contains at least 70 of those elements, 62 of which are metals. While many elements aren't toxic or harmful, a few of them are.

For example, smartphones often contain heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and zinc, as well as flame retardants. When phones and other electronic devices that contain these elements are tossed in the landfill, there is a risk that they will leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater.

It looks as if newer smartphones contain fewer toxic metals and elements compared to older phones. The original iPhone earned a ranking of 5.0 (out of 5.0) for toxicity. Meanwhile, later models such as the iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 were considerably less toxic, earning rankings of 2.69 and 2.75 respectively.

Although modern smartphones and electronic devices might not contain as many toxic elements or might appear to be "greener" compared to their earlier counterparts, it's still a good idea to keep them out of the landfill, for the sake of the planet and human health.

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Many smartphones contain amounts of copper and aluminum, two metals which might not be as valuable as gold, silver or platinum, but that still involve a considerable amount of effort and energy to extract from the earth.

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Many smartphones contain amounts of copper and aluminum, two metals which might not be as valuable as gold, silver or platinum, but that still involve a considerable amount of effort and energy to extract from the earth.

2. Keeps Precious Materials out of Landfills

If your partner gave you a gold engagement ring, then you broke up, would you throw the ring in the trash? No way — it's made of gold! You would either sell it or give it back to your ex after the relationship ends.

While electronic devices aren't exactly like fine, expensive jewelry, they do contain plenty of precious metals that you don't want to go to waste. An iPhone often has around 0.034 grams of gold, 0.34 grams of silver and smaller amounts of platinum and palladium. Many smartphones also contain higher amounts of copper and aluminum, two metals which might not be as valuable as gold, silver or platinum, but that still involve a considerable amount of effort and energy to extract from the earth.

Along with containing precious metals, smartphones and other electronic devices also often contain rare earth metals or elements. Rare earth metals aren't actually "rare." They're found throughout the planet's crust in great abundance. But it's difficult and expensive to mine and extract these elements.

Smartphones might contain up to 16 of the 17 rare earth metals. An iPhone typically has eight types of rare earth elements in it. Among the rare earth metals found in smartphones are scandium, yttrium, and the lanthanides, such as dysprosium, gadolinium, lanthanum, neodymium, praseodymium and terbium.

What are rare earth metals doing in your phone or other electronic devices? They help make up the green, blue and red colors you see on the phone's display. Your phone needs elements like neodymium and dysprosium to vibrate.

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Tablet - Keep Landfills From Filling Up

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If people continue to throw things in the trash, and if that trash continues to get sent to landfills, it's estimated that landfills in the United States will reach capacity within 15 years.

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Keep Landfills From Filling Up

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If people continue to throw things in the trash, and if that trash continues to get sent to landfills, it's estimated that landfills in the United States will reach capacity within 15 years.

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Keep Landfills
From Filling Up

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If people continue to throw things in the trash, and if that trash continues to get sent to landfills, it's estimated that landfills in the United States will reach capacity within 15 years.

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3. Keeps Landfills From Filling Up

In 2015, the U.S. created 262.4 million tons of trash. Of that trash, more than half, 137.7 million tons, ended up in landfills. Between 1990 and 2015, the amount of waste that ended up in landfills fell, from 145.3 million tons to 137.7 million tons. An increase in recycling rates as well as an increase in composting contributed to the drop in the trash that ended up in landfills.

Things have changed more recently, though, which has some people wondering if landfill space is at a premium. In January 2018, China announced that it would no longer accept imports of plastics for recycling. As a result, many communities across the U.S. have scaled back their recycling programs or canceled them entirely. Plastic bottles, containers and other types of packaging that people once tossed in their recycling bins now get thrown in with the rest of the trash.

If people continue to throw things in the trash, and if that trash continues to get sent to landfills, it's estimated that landfills in the United States will reach capacity within 15 years.

While it might seem like a small thing, not tossing your old smartphone or other electronic gadgets in the trash can help to slow down the rate at which landfills are filling up. If the more than 1 billion people who buy a new smartphone each year kept their old phones and other gadgets out of the trash, it would make a big difference.

Improves People's Health

Once e-waste gets to certain countries, it is handled in a manner that isn't eco-friendly or safe for people's health.

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Improves People's Health

Once e-waste gets to certain countries, it is handled in a manner that isn't eco-friendly or safe for people's health.

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Improves People's Health

Once e-waste gets to certain countries, it is handled in a manner that isn't eco-friendly or safe for people's health.

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4. Improves People's Health

Although some of the e-waste that gets discarded ends up in landfills in the country where the item was tossed out, often, e-waste gets shipped elsewhere. In some cases, the e-waste is sent to other countries illegally. A report from Interpol suggested that about one-third of containers leaving the European Union for developing countries contained illegal e-waste.

Once e-waste gets to certain countries, it is handled in a manner that isn't eco-friendly or safe for people's health.

In Accra, the capital of Ghana, the Agbogbloshie dump has been the subject of multiple investigative reports and articles from Western journalists. The dump even has its own Wikipedia page. At Agbogbloshie, e-waste is often burned to separate the recyclable, valuable materials from the less essential materials. For example, insulated copper wire, which is used in USB cables and elsewhere, is burned to remove the insulation, leaving the valuable copper behind.

There are safer ways to separate the copper from the insulation, but burning it is quick and easy. It also produces toxic smoke, which can contribute to respiratory issues in the people working at the dump. The smoke often contains substances such as dioxin, which is hazardous to human health.
About 10,000 people work at Abogbloshie, and many of them do experience medical issues ranging from respiratory ailments, chronic nausea and headaches to burns and skin infections.

Although not every piece of equipment that ends up at Abogbloshie comes from a country like the U.S. or from the EU, if people in Western countries cut back on throwing out their old devices and instead found a way to reuse or recycle them, it could make a big difference to the health of people around the world.

5. Helps People Get Connected

Let's face it, a new smartphone or new tablet is expensive. One of the benefits of recycling electronics is that doing so lets a person who might not be able to afford a new device get connected.

A shiny, new iPhone might set you back $1,000, and a less in-demand smartphone, from a less well-known brand, typically costs more than $350. Even if you break up the cost of the phone and pay in monthly installments, the price tag might be too high for many consumers.

Meanwhile, a refurbished, older-model iPhone is going to work just as well as a brand-new model, but with a much lower price. A refurbished iPhone 6 often costs less than $200, for example.

These days, it's getting harder and harder to get by without a smartphone. By recycling your old phone after you get a new model, you're giving someone else the chance to connect and potentially make their life better.

A report from the Environmental Protection Agency found that general recycling programs created more than 750,000 jobs for every 1,000 tons of recycled materials. 

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A report from the Environmental Protection Agency found that general recycling programs created more than 750,000 jobs for every 1,000 tons of recycled materials. 

6. Creates Jobs

E-waste recycling programs help to create more jobs. A report from the Environmental Protection Agency found that general recycling programs created more than 750,000 jobs or about 1.5 jobs for every 1,000 tons of recycled materials. In electronics recycling, 20,000 to 30,000 jobs were created in 2016, resulting in about $1 billion in wages.

There are even programs for e-waste management designed to produce job opportunities for people who might otherwise have limited options. One startup, based in California, created a job program for people with criminal records. The program gives people jobs recycling e-waste, helping them earn an income and also helping to lower rates of recidivism.

Reduces the Need to Mine for New Materials

The rare earth elements mined in other parts of the world, including the U.S., are usually sent to China for processing. 

Reduces the Need to Mine for New Materials 

The rare earth elements mined in other parts of the world, including the U.S., are usually sent to China for processing. 

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Reduces the Need to Mine for New Materials

The rare earth elements mined in other parts of the world, including the U.S., are usually sent to China for processing. 

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7. Reduces the Need to Mine for New Materials

The rare earth metals or elements that smartphones and other electronic devices need to operate aren't exactly rare. The elements were pretty plentiful back in the days when the Earth was still forming. As a result, they are found in abundance in the inner parts of the Earth. Near the surface of the planet, rare earth metals are in much shorter supply.

Another tricky thing about rare earth elements is that they can be difficult to extract once they are taken out of the ground. Rare earth elements are often found in minerals such as monazite. Separating the rare earth elements from other elements found in monazite, such as phosphate, can be challenging to do and often requires several days of processing.

Although there are rare earth metals to be found in America, particularly in California's Mountain Pass, the majority of rare earth elements mined and sold today come from China. Around 80% of rare earth metals imported by the U.S. between 2014 and 2017 came from China.

To make things more interesting, the rare earth elements mined in other parts of the world, including the U.S., are usually sent to China for processing. The Mountain Pass mine company ships approximately 50,000 tons of elements to China each year. China then tacks on a 25% tariff to the imported elements.

One way to reduce the need to mine for rare earth metals is by recycling devices that contain the elements already. Whether the devices are refurbished and sold to a new consumer or broken down and sold for parts, recycling will help reduce America's reliance on imported rare earth metals and minimize the need to mine and process additional elements.

Recycling electronics helps to cut down on energy use by reducing the number of new products that need to be made. 

Recycling 1 million smartphones can lead to the recovery of:

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35,000 pounds
of copper

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75 pounds
of gold

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772 pounds
of silver

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33 pounds
of palladium

Recycling electronics helps to cut down on energy use by reducing the number of new products that need to be made. 

Recycling 1 million smartphones can lead to the recovery of:

copper-icon

35,000 pounds
of copper

gold-icon

75 pounds
of gold

silver-icon

772 pounds
of silver

palladium-icon

33 pounds
of palladium

8. Reduces Energy Use

Have you ever thought about the environmental impact of mobile phones, tablets, laptops and other devices or about how much energy it takes to produce a new phone, laptop or tablet? Recycling electronics helps to cut down on energy use by reducing the number of new products that need to be made. When your phone or other device finds a new home with another consumer, it also saves energy by minimizing the need to break down the device for new parts.

Recycling 1 million laptops each year saves the equivalent of the amount of electricity needed to power around 3,500 homes. Recycling your electronics can also help reduce the energy used to package and transport new devices.

When you recycle a smartphone, it's often possible to recover the precious metals used in the phone and give them a new life, reducing the need to spend energy and time mining and processing metals from the earth. Recycling 1 million smartphones can lead to the recovery of:

  • 35,000 pounds of copper
  • 75 pounds of gold
  • 772 pounds of silver
  • 33 pounds of palladium

Improves People's Quality of Life

Cutting off the flow of e-waste to developing countries can help the people who live in those countries enjoy cleaner air and water. 

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Improves People's Quality of Life
Cutting off the flow of e-waste to developing countries can help the people who live in those countries enjoy cleaner air and water. 

recycle bin electronics

Improves People's Quality of Life
Cutting off the flow of e-waste to developing countries can help the people who live in those countries enjoy cleaner air and water. 

9. Improves People's Quality of Life

Recycling your smartphone and other electronic devices can help improve people's quality of life in many ways. First, if your phone is an older model but still in usable condition, and can be sold to another consumer, that person will get the advantage of owning a smartphone. They'll be able to do whatever you can do with a phone, from texting and calling friends to finding their way to a new location using a maps app.

Another way e-waste recycling helps to improve people's quality of life is by creating jobs and opportunities. If someone previously struggled to find a job but then gets an offer to work with a U.S.-based recycling company or a company that collects, refurbishes and sells secondhand devices, they can essentially get a new lease on life.

Finally, e-waste recycling can help to improve the quality of life of people who live or work near dumps like Abogbloshie. The acrid, toxin-filled smoke produced by burning devices at the dump isn't just a risk for the people who work there. It can also pollute the air and water in the area around the dump. Livestock feed and live in the surrounding area, and if they consume contaminated food or water, they could make the people who end up eating the livestock sick, as well.

Cutting off the flow of e-waste to developing countries can help the people who live in those countries enjoy cleaner air and water. Introducing safer ways to handle e-waste to countries where toxic dumps are a problem can help to improve the quality of life of those who work in the dumps or live nearby.


If you care about the resolution of your screen, you'll be glad to know the iPhone 12 is likely to use an OLED display.

Helps You Financially

If you love and baby your devices and they look as good as new, even though they are a year or two old, you're likely to get a good amount of money when you sell them. 

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Helps You Financially

If you love and baby your devices and they look as good as new, even though they are a year or two old, you're likely to get a good amount of money when you sell them. 

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Helps You Financially

If you love and baby your devices and they look as good as new, even though they are a year or two old, you're likely to get a good amount of money when you sell them. 

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10. Helps You Financially

You probably paid a decent sum of money when you first bought your tablet, smartphone or mp3 player. Depending on how old it is, you might be able to get a reasonable sum back when you recycle it.

How much you can get for your old device depends in large part on how old it is and what condition it is in. If you love and baby your devices and they look as good as new, even though they are a year or two old, you're likely to get a good amount of money when you sell them. Older devices or devices that have some signs of wear and tear or noticeable damage, such as a cracked screen, can still get you money, but the amount is likely to be reduced. You might even be able to make some money selling an old phone that barely turns on.

What can you do with the money you get from recycling your old phone or another device? It's really up to you. Some people use the money to pay for a new phone, especially if they are on a monthly payment plan with their carrier. Others might use the money to pay down debt, such as student loan or credit card debt. Of course, you could also use the money you get to pay for something fun, such as a date night or a day trip.


How to Recycle Your Electronics

When looking for a place to recycle your electronics,
you want to
make sure you find a company the will handle
then responsibly, and that won't contribute to the problem
created by dumps such as Abogbloshie.


As of 2019, we have recycled more than 21 million devices
throughout our our existence, allowing us to recover:

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741,300 pounds of copper

gold-icon

1,575 pounds of gold

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16,212 pounds of silver

ecoATM-logo
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mobile How to Recycle Your Electronics

When looking for a place to recycle your electronics,
you want to
make sure you find a company the will handle
then responsibly, and that won't contribute to the problem
created by dumps such as Abogbloshie.


As of 2019, we have recycled more than 21 million devices
throughout our our existence, allowing us to recover:

copper-icon

741,300
pounds of copper

gold-icon

1,575
pounds of gold

silver-icon

16,212
pounds of silver

ecoATM-logo

How to Sell or Recycle Your Electronics

Has the threat of electronic waste and the benefits of e-waste recycling convinced you that the best thing to do with old electronics is to find them a new home? We thought so. There's so much to gain from repurposing or recycling your old devices, rather than tossing them in a drawer, or worse, in the trash.

ecoATM makes it super easy for you to sell or recycle your old devices. First, tell us a bit about what type of device you're selling. It can be an old iPhone, an old Samsung Galaxy, another kind of cell phone, a tablet or an mp3 player.

Then, tell us a bit about the device. We'll ask you whether it turns on, lights up and whether it's scratched or cracked. Once we have that information, we'll give you a quote. From there, you can find your nearest ecoATM kiosk, bring your device over and get paid instantly.

You can also skip the online step and bring your device straight to one of our kiosks. ecoATM will examine your device, give you an offer on the spot and pay you if you decide to accept the offer. When bringing your device to the kiosk, make sure to charge it up first and that you have removed any personal data by factory resetting the device. You'll also want to bring along your ID, such as your driver's license.

No phone, tablet or mp3 player is too old or too broken for us to accept. Whether you've got a single phone to recycle or an entire drawerful of devices, find the ecoATM nearest you today and get paid instantly for your old electronics.