What Can You Do with Your Old Mobile Phone?

A few years ago, a survey was released which confirmed that there are officially more mobile devices than people in the world[1]. We are so used to having so many electronic gadgets that we no longer realize how much the amount of electronic waste will grow.

For example, in Hong Kong there are statistically two devices per person. For the USA and China statistics show that every citizen has a mobile phone[2]. What are we doing with the mobile devices we no longer need?

Some people change their phones quite often. Even when they are not broken, they want to have the newest model on the market. Trends are changing rapidly and a lot of us have at least one spare mobile phone in a drawer. Some phones are completely forgotten, even if they still work. We keep them as backup phones but do we really need to keep more than one device just in case?  And some of them are not working because they operate on 2G system, which is no longer supported in many countries.

When we checked our drawers, we found mobile phones that had been used quite a long time ago. We started to look for information online as we didn’t know what to do with them. It is important to know that mobile devices shouldn’t be thrown in the trash. They are potentially hazardous waste for the environment because they contain mercury, cadmium and/or lead[3]. Moreover, as the Environmental Protection Agency stated, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be saved from every one million phones recycled[4].

There are some ways of dealing with old mobile phones.
We chose 5 of them to help you decide.

 Just activate it anew!

You can activate your old mobile phone for someone in your family or for a friend who actually needs it. Sometimes we think that our former device is not working when it is only out of battery. Even if it is not as quick or convenient in use as it used to be years ago, it still can make calls or send messages. There are people who don’t need a built-in camera or WiFi connection in their mobile phones so your old device will be sufficient for them. Also, you may be able to activate it on your account for a lower price as an additional number. You should ask your telecommunications company for an offer.

Use it as a dedicated music player

If you want to save your old device as a backup phone, consider putting it to use sooner. Phones lose power quickly when you use a lot of applications on them. When you listen to music it may be convenient to have a separate device for it. Change your old mobile phone into an MP3 player so you can always have your headphones attached to it and you’ll save storage space on your main smartphone. It is even possible to use streaming music services if your old mobile phone can be connected with the Internet via WiFi, you should be able to download your playlist onto it.

Change its utility

There are many ideas online as to how you can use your old mobile phone differently, especially if it is broken. For example, you could change it into a wallet or a piggy bank. It might sound surprising but you can see how it’s done here. Also, if it has a built-in camera, it could be used as a security camera network so you can check on your home-staying dog anytime. See how to do it here. There are a lot of creative ways to give your phone a new life.

Donate it to a charity

If you have a working phone which you won’t use, you could give it to people who need it. It is easy to find charities that accept mobile phones, there are programs against domestic violence or dedicated to soldiers. Your phone will be activated and it may be used by people in certain programs. Some organizations will recycle your phone for you and use the money from it as a donation to achieve their goals.

  • Domestic Violence Charities

The majority of charities accept mobile phones and other electronic donations. You can check if your local shelter takes donation directly. Some organizations, such as Shelter Alliance from the U.S., are running cell phone “fundraising”. That means they take old mobile devices from people and sell them or recycle them. Money from the procedure is donated to domestic violence shelters in the country. They’ve earned 15 million dollars for their cause and have been doing this since 2001.

This is the organization which support different charities like the American Red Cross, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation. They are raising funds by recycling mobile phones and their spots are all around the U.S. so it is easy to find one. In your country, there is probably a similar organization which you should be able to find by searching online.

There is an American organization that uses the money from recycling old mobile phones to provide free calling cards to U.S. soldiers so they can connect with their families back home. They also help veterans ease back into everyday life after they return home. This is one of the most popular charities – since they started, they have collected over 11 million phones.

These are only examples from the United States but when you type the phrase “mobile phones for charity” and the name of your country into a searching engine, you will find a variety of great causes you can support. For example, in the UK there are several: Against Breast Cancer – an organization which donates money to research the prevention of breast cancer; Oxfam which fights poverty in the world or Refugee Phones – a program that collects old smartphones to donate to refugees. In France, there is a charity called Emmaüs which uses the money to help the marginalized rebuild their lives. We’re sure you can find many more.

Recycle it

If your phone is broken and you want to get rid of it immediately, remember not to put it in the trash. It needs to be recycled. You can do this in a variety of ways. As we mentioned above, there is the option to just give it to charity, which will take care of the recycling process. If you don’t find a suitable one, you can look for an automated kiosk which collects unwanted mobile phones and tablets (for example, EcoATM). They are in a lot of shops, not only those selling electronic devices but also in various grocery stores.

Kiosks that offer money for your devices can give you a few dollars to hundreds, depending on the device. If there are no places like that in your city, you might find a traditional place to recycle old phones. There’s also an option to post the devices. In some countries, for example in the U.S., there are companies which offer discounts or gift cards for your old mobile phone; Gazelle is one of the most popular but sites such as Amazon also have this option. Shipping a phone is free and you can check the worth of your device on the Internet before mailing it. It depends on its model, brand and shape.

 

Before you decide to recycle your phone or donate it to charity, there are a few steps you should take care of. You need to prepare your device before giving it away.

  1. Remove any data from it (contact information, photos, messages, etc.). You can transfer them to your computer or another mobile phone if you don’t want to just delete it all.
  2. Revert to default or factory settings to remove any passwords or security codes.
  3. If your old mobile phone has a SIM card, it should be removed.

I think you now know how many options you have to do something with your old mobile phones. They don’t have to be kept in your drawers or shelves as they don’t have much value that way. You can sell them, recycle them, donate them to charity or give them directly to someone who needs it. Whatever you choose, don’t throw it in the trash. Old mobile phones are hazardous waste for our environment.

If you want to keep up to date with us and our articles (or follow what we’re doing in general) then you can find us via Facebook: Slow Digital

Sources:

 

[1]Davies Boren, Z. (2014) There are officially more mobile devices than people in the world [Online]http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/there-are-officially-more-mobile-devices-than-people-in-the-world-9780518.html (Accessed 03/10/2017)

[2]Lebanese Economy Forum (2017) Mobile cellular subscriptions – by country [Online] http://lebanese-economy-forum.com/wdi-gdf-advanced-data-display/?curve=IT-CEL-SETS (Accessed 03/10/2017)

[3]SeedTime (formerly ChristianPF) (2017) What To Do With Old Cell Phones?
[Online] https://christianpf.com/what-to-do-with-old-cell-phones/ (Accessed 03/10/2017)

[4]Roland, E. (2017) Reader’s Digest: Don’t Throw It Out! 14 Genius Uses for That Old Cell Phone [Online] https://www.rd.com/advice/saving-money/what-to-do-with-old-cell-phones/ (Accessed 03/10/2017)