Cellular Phones - Reuse and Recycle

This page offers a list of resources for reusing or recycling cellular phones.

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The first call ever made from a cellular phone took place on April 3, 1973.  Ten years later, Motorola introduced the first commercial cell phone, which weighed 28-ounces and cost $3,500.  In 1990, less than 1 percent of the U.S. population was using cell phones.  By 2013, the number of Americans dialing up these portable devices jumped to more than 87 percent.

While the size of cell phones has decreased over the years, the number of people using them has increased dramatically.  Since the average cell phone is discarded after 18 months of use (even though they can usually function much longer), thousands of tons of cell phones are unnecessarily thrown into the trash each year.  Between 1999 and 2003, only 2.5 million of an estimated 500 million U.S. cell phones were collected for reuse or recycling.  The phones that are thrown away waste valuable energy and resources and contain materials that can be hazardous to our health and environment.  Toxins such as arsenic, antimony, beryllium, coltan, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc are commonly found in cell phone components and can contaminate air, soil, and water when cell phones are landfilled or incinerated.  Flame retardant plastic casings and rechargeable batteries are also potentially hazardous components of cell phones (USEPA).

Things you can do to REDUCE the amount of cell phone waste you generate:
  • Keep your cell phone until it no longer works.
  • Charge your battery according to the manufacturer's directions.
  • Protect your cell phone from damage:  store it in a case, avoid dropping it, keep it out of extreme heat and cold, and keep it away from water and other liquids.
  • Find a company or organization that will refurbish or recycle it for you when its life is over.
archALIVE's Cell Phone Drive
Phone:  314.993.7080
Mail:  Post Office Box 11201, St. Louis, Missouri 63105
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  refurbish, distribute, and recycle cellular phones.  "ALIVE (Alternatives to Living in Violent Environments) has the opportunity to raise much needed funds through the collection of used and unwanted cellular phones.  The proceeds will benefit essential programs at our domestic violence organization and help many domestic violence victims in the St. Louis Community...After being shipped to a refurbishing company, a contribution will be made to our organization based on the quantity and viability of the cell phones collected.  The phones are reprogrammed and circulated back into our community to be used by domestic violence victims."
missouriAnimal Protective Association of Missouri
Fax:  314.645.3292     Phone:  314.645.4610
Mail:  1705 South Hanley Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63144
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  "Your old cell phone can help the APA raise funds that will go directly to the animals in our care.  Drop yours off at our shelter today, or have a Used Cell Phone Drive at your school, business or place of worship..."
Phone:  800.503.8026
Mail:  4551 Northwest 44th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34482
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  get cash for your old cell phones.  Select a manufacturer from their lists to find your phone.  Request a free postage paid box.  Send them your phones and receive your cash!  Use their web site to complete transactions.  The phones are tested, refurbished, and introduced into new markets where cell phones are typically the only line of communication available, such as underdeveloped countries south of the United States.  A number of phones are designated as 911 emergency phones and donated to shelters and charities, while phones of lesser value are recycled and the components used to make new phones.
Cell Phones for Soldiers
Phone:  781.826.5801
Address:  c/o Hitech Assets, 304 North Meridian Avenue, Ste. 9, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73107
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered: "In 2004, Brittany and Robert Berquist of Norwell, Massachusetts heard of a U.S. soldier in Iraq with an enormous cell phone bill.  The pair, then 12 and 13, raised $21 and took it to a local bank, which added $500.  Other businesses chipped in, and "Cell Phones for Soldiers" was born.  Old cell phones are collected and sold for recycling, and the cash is used to buy calling cards for the military.  So far, $60,000 worth of calling cards have been sent to our troops.  Phones are accepted at all Liberty Tax Service locations, including 2168 Chambers Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63136.  Donate a phone and receive a coupon for $20 off income tax preparation.  Or, mail cell phones and attached batteries to the address above."
archCTIA - The Wireless Association
Phone:  314.776.1996
Mail:  5025 Northrup Avenue, Suite 110, St. Louis, Missouri 63110

Easter Seals of Missouri
Web: http://www.wirelessfoundation.org
Phone: 314.644.6507
6918 Fyler, St. Louis, Missouri 63139
  • The Wireless Foundation refurbishes, donates, sells, or recycles cellular phones and equipment, rechargeable batteries (non-NiCd), and NiCd batteries. Donate-A-Phone resells phones to raise funds for charities. Call-To-Protect is a domestic violence prevention project to provide those in danger with instant access to help in the form of a free wireless phone and airtime. Phones are also provided to domestic violence professionals so they can reach victims, report cases of abuse and contact emergency services. Check their website on where to mail phones. Locally, drop off phones at Sprint stores or at Easter Seals of Missouri. 

Web: www.greenphone.com
Email: support@flipswap.com
Phone: 310.294.5400
Address: 5763 Arapahoe Avenue, Ste. G, Boulder, Colorado 80303-1350
  • Accept most makes and models of mobile phone for reuse, except car installed phones. They also accept cell phone batteries and other accessories. All proceeds benefit a charitable organization. Two programs they support which offer free shipping are: CARE and Red Jelly Fish/ Adopt An Acre.

National Wildlife Foundation
Phone:  866.277.1177
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  e-mail or call to provide your address, then they'll send you a postage-paid recycling bag to mail in your phone (up to three small-size cell phones fit in one bag).  They also accept accessories and batteries.  They'll receive a donation of $1.00 for each phone mailed in.
archOffice Depot
Phone:  314.351.5525 or 800.463.3768
Mail:  4928 Christy Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63116
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  refurbish, recycle, or resell cell phones.  Partnering with the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), Office Depot is now collecting, free of charge, all old cell phones and used rechargeable batteries for recycling, including Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion), and Small Sealed Lead (Pb) weighing less than 2 lb/1kg.  These batteries are also commonly found in other portable office electronics products including cordless phones, laptop computers, PDAs, digital cameras, and portable printers.  A portion of the proceeds received from the resale benefits select charities, such as Boys and Girls Clubs of America.  Drop off phones at all Office Depot locations.
Phones 2 Water
Web:  www.phones2water.com
Phone:  888.417.3229
Mail:  Post Office Box 9998, Dexter, Michigan 48130-9998
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  Cellular phones and wireless devices can be donated to earn revenue for water sustainability projects.  Postage-paid shipping label can be printed from their website.
Phone:  800.441.1544
Mail:  2555 Bishop Circle West, Dexter, Michigan 48130
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  they refurbish, recycle, and resell cell phones and accessories and fund numerous charity organizations.  They also offer a free online Data Eraser that removes all personal information from your cell phone prior to recycling.
Recycle & Reward
Phone:  866.VET.ASSIST (866.838.2774)
Mail:  c/o Veterans Advantage, 2555 Bishop Circle West, Dexter, Michigan 49130

Recycle For Breast Cancer
Fax:  800.315.9580     Phone:  800.315.9580
Mail:  31 Beta Court, Suite C, San Ramon, California 94583
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  they'll provide a prepaid shipping label for cell phones and pagers.
Recycle For Schools
Fax:  818.773.9077     Phone:  818.772.4664
Mail:  9815 Independence Avenue, Chatsworth, California 91311
  • Materials Accepted / Services Offered:  "We pay you cash for all the cell phones you collect.  Whether you keep the cash for yourself or donate it to your favorite school, charity, or organization, it's your choice!  Send them to us through prepaid collection bags and boxes."
Recycle For US
Phone:  888.581.8344
Mail:  4551 Northwest 44th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34482
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  "We pay you for your old cell phone, or phones, which in turn are refurbished and resold or broken down and recycled in an environmentally friendly manner."
archSaint Louis Zoo
Mail:  Attn Cellphone Recycling, One Government Drive, St. Louis, Missouri 63110
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  "Cell-ebrate Orangutans!  The Orangutan is one of the most critically endangered species on Earth.  With a simple donation of your cell phone, you can help orangutans and help the environment at the same time.  The St. Louis Chapter of American Association of Zoo Keepers will collect unwanted cell phones at the Zoo and earn funds for the non-profit Balikpapan Orangutan Society (BOS-USA).  BOS-USA is helping to preserve the orangutan and its habitat."  Cell phones can be donated at the Welcome Desk at the North and South Entrances during Zoo hours, or mailed to the address above.
Phone:  866.364.5680
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  current Sprint customers can receive credit on their account balances based on return of eligible devices (e.g., cell phones, aircards, modems, related accessories) and batteries.  Equipment will be refurbished for reuse (e.g., internal programs, including replacements, testing, trials; handsets for charitable programs or international carriers) or recycled, with those proceeds to benefit Sprint Project Connect, which promotes Internet safety for children.
Verizon Wireless HopeLine
Phone:  800.426.2790
Mail:  c/o ReCellular Inc., 2555 Bishop Circle West, Dexter, Michigan 48130
  • Materials Collected / Services Offered:  refurbish, sell, and recycle cellular phones and equipment, rechargeable batteries, and NiCd batteries.  The funds raised from these efforts are used to purchase wireless phones which are distributed, along with donated airtime and with the assistance of human services and law enforcement agencies, to victims of domestic violence.  A tax receipt form is available at Verizon Wireless Stores or at their website.  Mail phones to the address above or visit any area Verizon Wireless store.
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