When you get a new cell phone, either because your old one conked out or just because you wanted the latest thing, what do you do with the old one? You can stick it in a desk drawer for a back-up. Or just throw it away if it doesn’t work, right? Wrong. Cell phones should definitely be recycled. The phone and the battery contain small amounts of heavy metals, which are toxic. Old cell phones should never be sent to a landfill. There are several options for recycling. If your old phone is what is referred to as a “smart” phone, such as a Blackberry or a Nokia 95, you may actually be able to sell it. Getting paid for an old item is always better than just throwing it away. There are several websites that offer to purchase old cell phones. Understand, though, that if what you have is a basic flip phone or bar phone, there is virtually no market for it, and you will have to look for another way.
One option is to take it to the local store for your service provider. Nearly all of them will accept your old phone and battery. They will send them to a processor for proper recycling. Of course, they will also try to sell you something. That is, after all, why they exist. But you should be able to turn in your phone and battery for recycling with a minimum of difficulty.
There are also some charitable organizations that will accept donations of cell phones. Some send them to some of the poorest nations in the world. They can provide a valuable link to otherwise isolated people. Other organizations provide the phones, along with a limited amount of usage, to the poorest people in this country.
There is another option. All major cities, and most large towns, have a shelter for battered women. Donate your phone to the shelter. They give them to the residents as a safety measure. The phones can dial 911 and are set to speed-dial the shelter if the woman needs assistance. This allows these women a degree of protection when they go out into the world. If you decide to do this and you are male, get your wife or girlfriend or sister to take care of it. Shelters for battered women are understandably reluctant to talk with men about anything. You can arrange to give the phone to a third party, who will take it to the shelter, but it is unlikely they will want you to bring it. Most shelters will not even tell a man where they are located. The reason is clear. They are a shelter for women who have been abused (almost always by a man) and it would defeat their purpose if they told the man who did the abusing where the woman was located.
One thing you should do before recycling your phone is clear the memory. Cell phones tend to save a lot of stuff: not just contact info, but text messages, pictures, etc. You should get rid of all of it. If there is anything you really do not want anybody else to see, find out how to truly wipe the memory. Just like with a computer, simply hitting delete does not make it go away. Different phones have different procedures for a true deletion. One of the Palm devices actually requires three hands to fully delete the data on it. Whatever the case, delete everything. It makes no sense to place your personal information in the hands of a stranger.