The Importance of Smartphone Recycling

The Importance of Smartphone Recycling

If you've recently purchased a new phone, you're probably unsure about how you should do with your old cell phone. You might even wonder if selling it or recycling it is worth the extra effort. After all, couldn't you just throw it in the trash or your recycling bin without any problems?

While you could just throw away your old phone, it's not advisable. By going through the proper channels, you could make money recycling the phone through a specialized company, and you will also help the environment by reducing e-waste. Smartphone selling and recycling is a growing sector that seeks to address the environmental and human costs of improper handling of smartphones.

This article covers the reasons why you should sell or recycle old phones, how cell phone resell and recycling works and where to sell or recycle old phones.


The Facts of Smartphone Recycling

Throwing Away Your Phone Creates E-Waste

There Is a Market for Cell Phones

Most People Don't Know or Care About E-Waste

E-Waste Is a Serious Problem

Improper Recycling Can Add Toxins to Soil and Water

The Facts of Smartphone Recycling and Reuse

With companies constantly offering new phones and bundling them into contract prices for free, the latest smartphones are consistently flooding the market. While new gadgets are great, many people do not know the environmental cost of their old cell phones. Taking the extra step to sell or recycle your old cell phone through a company or service can provide you with extra cash and help you avoid adding to the epidemic of e-waste.

1. Throwing Away Your Phone Creates E-Waste

E-waste is a major threat to the environment and consists of electronic products which are at or near the end of their useful life. These electronic products will often be thrown away or forgotten about in a drawer. Many of these electronics end up in a landfill. Cell phones play a significant role in this waste.

But, wait, can't you just recycle your phone through your curbside recycling program?

As convenient as that would be, most local recycling providers will not accept electronics in a curbside bin. Before you recycle anything electronic, from cell phones to computers, you should check with your local recycling facility to see if they have the means to recycle them. If not, you'll be sending more e-waste to the landfill despite your best intentions.

Also, depending on the state, it could be illegal for you to place your cell phone in the trash or in your curbside recycling bin. If only for the sake of not having to pay a hefty fine, do your research before you recycle your phone.

2. E-Waste Is A Serious Problem 

2019 was a record year for e-waste, setting an all-time high of 53.6 million metric tons of trash. Small electronics, including cell phones, accounted for nearly 5 million metric tons of that total.

You can do your part to positively affect the world by recycling your device properly. E-waste harms the environment and can cause cardiovascular and pulmonary disease when it's burned in the open air. Unfortunately, improper recycling practices, like open-air burning, are far too common in some main recycling markets. By selling or recycling your cell phone properly, you keep it from going to recycling centers that do not follow proper protocols.

3. There Is A Market for Used Smartphones

But there's good news - Cell phones have the highest recycling market among electronic devices and materials. You can receive money for these devices as you sell them.

With a booming market for used electronic devices, you can also sell them at an ecoATM kiosk near you. No worrying about packaging or going through any online forms — you just bring it to the kiosk and get paid.

Our kiosks will accept your old smartphones and tablets, giving you cash for them right on the spot. With over 4,500 kiosks available, you'll be sure to find one near you. Once you bring your charged device along with your state ID to a kiosk, we will evaluate it and let you know how much we'll pay for it. If you're satisfied, our kiosk will take your device, and you'll receive the money for it on the spot.

4. Improper Recycling Can Add Toxins to Soil and Water

A 2014 study found that improper recycling caused contamination in two regions in Dehli, India. The high mercury level in one of the samples of water particularly concerned researchers, making them question if the water was safe to drink. The soil was also negatively affected by metals that changed the soil's characteristics. These results make it even more important to recycle devices properly so that they don't harm the environment or human health.

5. Most People Don't Know or Care About E-Waste

Another study found that 85% of Americans either don't care or don't know that e-waste makes up the fastest-growing stream of waste in the world. Additionally, the survey found 25% of Americans do not recycle their electronic devices, with 33% saying they don't recycle at all. Adding to the problem, only 10% of U.S. consumers said that they would purchase pre-owned devices like cell phones or computers.

However, there is some hope for the future of recycling. Part of reducing e-waste is giving electronic devices a second life. In the survey, 58% of respondents said that owning the latest model of a smartphone was not important to them, with 74% saying that they would not be able to tell if someone was using a pre-owned device.

With these statistics in place, it's possible that with more education on the subject, consumers will begin to buy refurbished smartphones rather than brand new. After all, in the same survey, 50% of Americans said that they would spend more money on a product if the company making it aligned with their environmental beliefs.

With a pre-owned phone, consumers will end up paying less while also protecting the environment, making it an ideal option.


Improper Recycling

Many fake recycling companies pretend to recycle cell phones and other electronics properly but never follow any established, responsible recycling protocols.

Improper Recycling

When you recycle your phone, make sure you use a reputable company. Improper recycling can have devastating impacts on the environment and human health.

Many fake recycling companies pretend to recycle cell phones and other electronics properly but never follow any established, responsible recycling protocols. Instead of following the rules, these companies make their money by collecting e-waste and sending it to scrapyards in countries like India, Pakistan, Ghana and China.

In these scrapyards, you'll find hundreds of people stripping the materials to get to the valuable metals within the phones. In the process of extracting the metals, they expose themselves to toxic fumes from the nickel, mercury and cadmium contained within the devices.

These fumes impact workers' health and can leak into drinking water, air and ground, harming communities as a whole. Many detrimental effects come from these irresponsible recycling practices, from human health hazards like birth defects and cancer to the long-term environmental impact.


To give your phones a second chance at life, look for companies that will resell or donate your old phones rather than immediately recycling.

Where Can I Recycle Old Phones?

To give your phones a second chance at life, look for companies that will resell or donate your old phones rather than immediately recycling. They make it their goal to give phones the longest life possible so that they can avoid going to a smelting facility for as long as possible. We recommend checking out for easy online trade-in. 

By going with a company that tries to get your phone into another individual's hands, you will reduce the amount of e-waste that even standard recycling methods produce.

In addition to recycling your phone with a company that claims they will be repurposing the phone, make sure that they are legitimate and that they demand the best quality standards from their recycling partners. Eventually, a phone will reach the end of its lifecycle, and a company will have to send it to be recycled.


What Should I Do With Cell Phone Cases?

Instead of throwing out an old cell phone case, see if it will still fit on your new phone. If it doesn't, or if you're set on getting a new one, donate it so that someone else can get some use out of it.

Additionally, you can check to see if it's recyclable and, if so, send it through the appropriate channels. You never want to send it to a landfill if there are other ways that you can dispose of it.


Over 30 Million Devices Collected with ecoATM

In 2022, ecoATM reached a milestone of recycling over 37 million devices, drastically affecting the planet in a positive way. To help conceptualize the impact people have by recycling through a trusted electronics recycling organization, we've put together some helpful stats to show how much recycling your device helps. Recycling 25 million cell phones equates to removing:

  • Electricity from 49,525 homes for a year
  • 10,925 tons of manufacturing emissions
  • 6.25 million pounds of e-waste

Other benefits include:

  • Recovering 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 35,274 pounds of copper and 33 pounds of palladium, along with an assortment of tin, platinum and zinc, for every 1 million phones recycled.
  • Keeping hazardous materials out of landfills where they can negatively impact the soil, groundwater and air. Since cell phones include toxic materials like lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and brominated flame retardants in them, it's important that they go through the proper recycling channels.
  • Saving enough energy to power a laptop for 44 hours by recycling just one cell phone.
  • Selling your device can help you earn some cash, and many recycling services are effortless to use. What's better than helping the environment and making money while you do it?

How to Sell or Recycle Your Cell Phone with ecoATM

Selling or recycling your old cell phone is easy. Just follow these simple steps:

  1.   Before you recycle, make sure that you have transferred all of your data like photos, videos and contacts from your old phone to your new one, a computer or the cloud, and delete all data from your phone.
  2.   Sign out of any accounts on your phone to protect your privacy.
  3.   Go to your settings and find the option that lets you do a factory reset on your phone. Select it so that all of your data is removed before you send it off. If you have a SIM card, you can remove and keep it.
  4.   Make sure that it's fully charged.
  5.   If you have any device tracking apps installed, such as Find My iPhone, turn them off.
  6.   Go to your local ecoATM for a simple process where you drop off the phone in a machine and get paid on the spot.

Recycle Your Old Phone With ecoATM

Instead of letting them sit there, if you recycle your old cell phone, you can make money by selling them to a company that can repurpose them.

With new phones constantly being manufactured and sold, you probably have a couple of phones lying around your home collecting dust. Instead of letting them sit there, if you sell or recycle your old cell phone.

If you take your phone to an ecoATM, you can rest easy knowing that your device will be reused or, at times when a phone is unable to be repurposed, responsibly recycled. Find an ecoATM near you to trade in your old phone for cash.