Now that you've got that stylish new cell phone you've been hinting about for Christmas, what do you plan to do with your old one? If you're like most of us, it's likely going to wind up in a drawer or down in the basement. Hopefully you won't just pitch it in the trash. Landfills full of cellular phones are an environmental disaster just waiting to happen. Why not do the right thing and recycle your old cell phone? Would you be more motivated if I waived cash in front of you?
Ah, there's the motivator we all respond to. Cool cash. It's the stuff that yard sales are made of. Except that it's hard to sell your cell phones at yard sales. Most people know that the carriers want no part of used phones. Walk into an electronics retailer or wireless store with a phone that no longer has service and they'll politely point you to their display of new models. Then comes the real shocker. You can probably get a new cell phone free with your service order, especially if you buy online. Kinda takes the savings out of buying somebody's used model, doesn't it? Even if you love the retro styling of one of those old DynaTAC phones that look like WWII walkie-talkies, you'll get laughed out of the cellular kiosk at the mall if you try to get them to activate it.
They way you get cash for your cell phone is to sell it to a recycler who's got the infrastructure to test, refurbish and reprogram it for reuse. Your local retailers and the carrier's stores aren't in this business. It's a specialized operation with the equipment and know-how to make old phones usable.
What becomes of old cell phones? The newer models can be programmed to work in developing countries that have a wireless transmission infrastructure but where the cost of new phones may be more than people can afford. This gives the economically disadvantaged a means of communications, especially where phone lines have never been and probably won't be installed. Other phones can be put into service as emergency phones used to call 911 but not for general use. Charities in the U.S. have an interest in these for people who can't afford a cellular service contract or even prepaid wireless service.
Cell phones that are more than a few years old may not have a current economic value, but they do pose an environmental risk. Those electronic parts, circuit boards and solder that make them work contain toxins such as lead and cadmium, plastics that can persist in the environment indefinitely, and even precious metals such as gold plating. The EPA estimates that over 165 million cell phones will be discarded every year. That's 65,000 tons of waste that really doesn't belong in a landfill. The EPA has an interesting brochure on this that you can read online and share with your kids. It's called "The Life Cycle of a Cell Phone."
An don't think you are making a difference by squirreling away that old cell phone in the garage, attic or basement. Someday, you or someone else is going to dispose of your old phone cache. They're likely to dump them in a plastic bag and set them out by the curb. Better that you take the initiative now that you know there are places you can have the old junkers recycled for their materials and the newer phones traded for cash before they go obsolete.
Want to see what your recently retired cell phone is worth? It may be just a few dollars or it might be as much as $100 for the fancier high technology models. See how much you can sell your old cell phone for right now. With this company you won't even have to pay shipping. They'll send you a box. You put your phone in it and drop it in the mail. If it's worth money, you'll get a check. Even if it isn't, you have the satisfaction of knowing that it is being recycled responsibly.
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