Recycling / Disposing of Your Old Cell Phone, Smart Phone or PDA
If you own a cell phone, sooner or later, you'll upgrade to a newer
model. But what should you do with your old phone? Options include
recycling, reselling, donating and, of course, disposal. regardless of the
method you use, before you let the phone leave your hands, you need to make
sure your personal information is removed. Protecting your identity and
financial security is also important, in addition to protecting the
Cell phones and other complex electronic devices, like Personal Digital
Assistants (PDAs), are like laptop computers: they hold personal and often
sensitive, confidential information, including addresses and phone numbers,
passwords, bank account numbers, email, voicemail, phone logs, even medical
and prescription information. You wouldn’t think of disposing of your old
laptop computer without first wiping the hard drive clean. Cell phones and
mobile devices deserve the same level of attention before you discard them.
Here are the
Step 1 - Remove sensitive information
Step 2 - Decide what to do with the phone
Step 3 - Find a recycling center near you
Step 1 - Permanently Removing Personal and Sensitive Information
Encrypting passwords and other sensitive data stored on your cell phone,
and “locking” the keypad while your phone is not in use, can help prevent
unauthorized access even after your cell phone is no longer in service.
Still, certain data on your phone, including personal contacts, photos and
Web search terms, may be recoverable with relatively simple and inexpensive
It’s a good idea to remove personal information before you dispose of
your phone. Permanent data deletion usually requires several steps.
Remove the memory or subscriber identity module (SIM) card from the
phone. That’s an important first step in deleting information. but you
likely will need to do more to erase all the sensitive data on your
device. You can command a cell phone to delete certain data, but that
will only delete the references to where the data is located; the actual
information stays on the phone’s operating system.
Clear data from the phone’s contacts and other stored information
from the memory chips See your owner’s manual, your wireless
provider’s website, or the manufacturer for specific information on how
to permanently delete information from your mobile device (and even how
to save or transfer information to a new device before deletion). Make
sure that you have removed the following data: phone book, any lists of
calls (received and made), voicemails, sent and received email and text
messages, organizer folders, Web search history and photos.
Step 2 - Recycle? Reuse? Dispose?
Once you have a “clean” phone, here are some options for disposing of it.
Recycling – Cell phone manufacturers, service
providers, and non-profit groups often have programs to refurbish mobile
devices or recycle their components, including peripheral devices like
Donating for Reuse – Many organizations collect old
mobile devices for charitable purposes.
Reselling – Some individuals and organizations will
buy your old mobile devices. You can find names and addresses online.
Disposing – Keep the environment in mind when
disposing of mobile devices. Disposal is the least preferred option.
Cell phones contain batteries, which should not be put in your trash
because they will end up in landfills where they could be harmful. Many
cell phones also contain heavy metals which can contaminate the earth.
Check with your local health and sanitation agencies for the proper way
to dispose of electronics safely.
Step 3 - Where / how to drop off the phone (or mail it)
U.S. Postal Service’s free “Mail Back” pilot program allows
customers to recycle small electronics and inkjet cartridges. About
1,500 Post Offices have free envelopes so you can mail back PDAs, cell
phones, digital cameras, and music players without having to pay for
EPA's Office of Solid Waste Product Stewardship supports multistakeholder dialogues, collection pilots, public education, and international cooperation to foster greater awareness and coordination of electronics reuse and recycling issues.
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