What to Do with Old Cell Phones?

Old cell phone in grass

When it comes to upgrading to a new cell phone, many of us are left wondering what to do with our old devices. Throwing them in the trash is not only harmful to the environment but also a waste of valuable resources. Luckily, we have listed several simple options for disposing of your old cell phones in a responsible, eco-friendly way.

The best thing you can do with your old phone is donate it to a charitable organization. There are many non-profit organizations that collect used cell phones and refurbish them for resale or donate them to those in need. This not only benefits the environment, but it also benefits a good cause. 

You can also recycle your old phone as there are many retailers and manufacturers that have recycling programs. Some even offer incentives such as discounts on new devices or gift cards.

Why Recycle Old Cell Phones

I understand the temptation to just throw old devices in a drawer and forget about them. However, recycling old cell phones is a better option for several reasons.

A variety of materials can be harmful if cell phones are disposed of in landfills, so just recycle them instead of throwing them away. In addition to the environmental benefits of recycling, many cell phone providers and electronics retailers offer trade-in programs that allow you to exchange your old device for a discount on a new one.

Overall, recycling old cell phones is a smart and responsible choice whether you want to protect the environment, save money, or help others.

Where To Sell Your Old Cell Phone

When it’s time to upgrade your phone, you may be wondering what to do with the old one. Here are two options:

There are a few places where you can sell or trade-in your old phone, such as:

  • eBay: You can list your phone for sale on eBay and set your price.
  • Swappa: Swappa is a marketplace for buying and selling used phones.
  • Gazelle: Gazelle is a website that buys used phones.
  • Best Buy: Best Buy has a trade-in program where you can bring in your old phone and get a gift card.
  • Local Repair Shops: Some cell phone repair shops buy used phones. 

Overall, selling your used cell phone is a quick and easy way to make some extra money.

Trade-In Programs

If you’re looking to get rid of your old cell phone, a trade-in program might be a good option. These programs allow you to exchange your old phone for a credit towards a new one, or sometimes even cash.

Manufacturer Programs

Many cell phone manufacturers have their trade-in programs. For example, Apple offers the Apple Trade-In program where you can trade in your old iPhone for credit towards a new one. Samsung also has a similar program called Samsung Trade-In.

These programs typically require you to answer a few questions about the condition of your phone and then provide an estimate of its value. If you accept the offer, you’ll be sent instructions on how to send in your old phone and receive your credit.

Retailer Programs

In addition to manufacturer programs, many retailers also offer trade-in programs. For example, Best Buy has a trade-in program for cell phones where you can receive a Best Buy gift card in exchange for your old phone.

Other retailers that offer trade-in programs include Amazon, Walmart, and Gazelle. These programs work similarly to manufacturer programs, where you answer questions about the condition of your phone and receive an estimate of its value. If you accept the offer, you’ll be sent instructions on how to send in your old phone and receive your credit.

Overall, trade-in programs can be a convenient way to get rid of your old cell phone while also receiving some value in return.


Donating an old cell phone is a great way to give back to your community and help those in need. Here are a few charities that accept old cell phones:


The non-profit organization Eco-Cell recycles cell phones and other electronics. By collecting old electronics from schools, non-profits, and businesses, Eco-Cell keeps them out of landfills. To raise funds for endangered species, Eco-Cell also partners with zoos and conservation organizations. Visit Eco-Cell’s website and fill out their donation form and they will send you a pre-paid shipping label, so you can mail over your old phone.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

A non-profit organization, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), raises funds for its programs and services through the donation of old cell phones. You can send your phone to NCADV for free by filling out a donation form on their website. They will provide you with a pre-paid shipping label. And you can help those in need by donating your old cell phone to a charity. Consider donating your phone to Eco-Cell or NCADV to help with their important work.

DIY Projects

Security Camera

If you have an old smartphone lying around, you can easily turn it into a security camera. All you need is a phone holder, a power source, and a security camera app. There are several free apps available on both Android and iOS that allow you to use your old phone as a security camera. Once you have the app installed, you can place the phone in a strategic location in your home and monitor it remotely from your current phone or tablet.

Digital Photo Frame

You can also use old smartphones for DIY projects like making digital photo frames, which allows you to display your favorite photos and memories without printing them out. Using a photo frame app, you can convert your old phone into a digital photo frame that displays a slide show of your photos. Your phone can also be propped up with a phone stand or holder so that it looks like a real photo frame.

Making use of your old smartphone is a great way to save money and repurpose it into a security camera or digital photo frame.

Environmentally Friendly Disposal

Recycling Centers

It is a good idea to take old cell phones to an e-waste recycling center when disposing of them. Electronic waste, including cell phones, can be safely and responsibly recycled at these centers. Taking your old phone to one of these centers will ensure that it will be recycled in an environmentally friendly manner.

It’s worth checking to see if you can dispose of multiple items at once at an e-waste recycling center because most will accept cell phones for free, whereas some may charge a small fee.

Retailer Take-Back Programs

It is also possible to recycle old cell phones through retailer take-back programs, including those offered by Apple and Best Buy. Customer loyalty programs typically offer discounts on new electronics and gift cards. Additionally, some programs offer free shipping for customers who mail in their old electronics. You can dispose of your old cell phone responsibly and sustainably by choosing one of the e-waste recycling centers or retailer take-back programs.


You now know what to do with old phones. I often trade them in for gift cards because it’s so convenient and fast. Overall, I hope you make the decision that fits you and your personality best. Good luck!

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