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How to Recycle an Old Cell Phone

As your resident friendly wireless provider, we love technology. We love new phones, new features and frequent upgrades. What we don’t love is the environmental impact of electronic waste. Disposing of old devices in an environmentally-friendly manner is crucial to reducing and even eliminating that waste. That’s why we wanted to create an easy guide on how to recycle your cell phone responsibly, including:

  • How to prepare your phone
  • Finding recycle locations
  • Understanding trade-in options
  • Recycling for charity
  • Donation programs, and more

Preparing your phone for recycling, trade-in, or donation

Before you recycle your phone you should take a few steps to get it ready, so that you can stay secure and avoid losing any of your important data or precious memories.

1. Transfer all data
There are a few ways to do this: you can transfer directly to your new phone if you have both on hand, you can make a backup to keep on a different device or utilize a cloud service to make a backup. The specific instructions will vary per make and model of your phone so check your manufacturer’s guide for a step-by-step. Ensure that you have your contacts, photos, documents, messages, apps, etc. secured before moving on to the next step.

2. Sign out of all of your accounts and remove SIM
Did you know that you might have information on your SIM in addition to your phone storage? Be sure to remove that (if you have a physical SIM), sign out of any accounts, and remove Find My on Apple devices.

3. Factory reset the phone
Restoring your phone to the factory settings will remove your personal data and clear everything from the phone so that nobody else can access what’s yours. There’s often no way to come back from this so be sure to have your backup/data saved somewhere before you start the reset.

4. Take out the battery (if it’s removable)
Many modern smartphones no longer have removable batteries, so this step won’t apply to you if that’s the case. However, if it does have a removable battery you should remove it before recycling as many recycling centers will only accept them separately.

Your phone is ready to recycle

There are many services available to recycle old devices. You can use a locator like the one on or Greener Gadgets to find one that’s convenient for you; organize a pickup through Call2Recycle. Want to do good for the environment and for a charitable cause? Several organizations accept old phones for recycling to support and raise money for charity. For example, Eco-Cell works with over 100 conservation organizations across North America to recycle cell phones and raise money for gorilla conservation.

What else can I do with my old phone?

Depending on the age of your phone, it might be better suited to reuse rather than recycling. There are many options to keep your old phone out of landfill; some might even put a little money back in your pocket:

Buyback and trade-in programs for your old phone

Some wireless providers have buyback or trade-in programs to ensure you can properly repurpose or dispose of your old device. This may provide you with a discount on your bill, a new handset, or even cash. Check in with your provider to see what you’re eligible for, or—wink, wink—if you haven't already then maybe it’s a great time to try out Visible.

Any user can trade in with Visible, provided they purchase a new phone. New and eligible existing members can trade in their device and get credit in four easy steps:

  1. Receive your estimate
    Answer a few quick questions and get your trade-in estimate on the spot.

  2. Find your new phone
    Browse our shop and pick your new phone. Phone must be purchased through Visible for trade-in eligibility.

  3. Return your device
    Print the return label, prep your device and ship it within 21 days of placing your order. The condition of your phone will be verified upon receipt.

  4. Get paid
    Once your phone has been verified, you'll be issued a credit.

Donation programs for old electronics

If you feel like doing some good with your old device, consider donating it to an organization or non-profit that accepts used smartphones and connects people in need with the technology that will give them a helping hand. One such example is World Computer Exchange, whose goal is to “bridge the digital divide by distributing computers and tech support to schools, NGOS and technology access programs worldwide.”


  • Can I recycle the cell phone battery?
    Yes, batteries can be recycled but at many electronic waste and recycling centers they’ll need to be processed separately. If you have a removable battery you can just remove it and be sure to comply with whatever the rules of your chosen program are.
  • Can I recycle the charger?
    Yes! If you have no use for it (with your new device or otherwise, you can recycle it through an electronic waste center or recycling program.

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