If you’re like me, you probably have a pretty decent-sized collection of crappy old cell phones just sitting in some drawer at home all lonely-like. Whether it’s a late-90s Nokia or your very first flip phone, we’re all starting to amass out-of-date cell phone gear that we just can’t bring ourselves to throw away. With smartphones getting so much smarter all the time, the likelihood of you breaking out your old Zack Morris brick phone is slim-to-none. If you’re not gonna use that stuff, might as well get rid of it, right?

Well did you know that less than 10% of discarded phones in America get recycled? Most of these discarded phones just sit around unused or worse, they get tossed in landfills. So what should you do with those old phones you’ll never use again? We talked to Cat Schwartz, a leading tech expert, to get her take on recycling old cell phones. Here’s how the conversation went down:

CS: I have a lot of old cell phones lying around and I don’t really know what to do with them. Don’t want to throw them away. Don’t really want to just donate them or whatever. How do you go about recycling these things?

Cat: To me it’s just really interesting because when the iPhone story came out – that Verizon has a new iPhone – people started asking me “I’m going to make the switch but I can’t take my AT&T iPhone with me, what can I do with my iPhone? I don’t want to just put it in a drawer” which is where half the phones end up anyways.

So I started working with a couple companies and I found this company securetradein.com. You go to the website, enter in the make and model of the phone that you have, and then they give you a couple pictures to make sure it’s the right phone. Then they tell you how much they’ll give you for the phone, and you print out a FedEx shipping label that they give you and send it in. Then they send you a check.

CS: So they cover the shipping costs?

Cat: Yes, they cover the shipping costs. It’s cool because then you actually have some cash for the device. I can’t tell you how many phones I have in my drawer, but when I was doing research I realized I have like 8 cell phones because I upgrade once a year sometimes.

CS: Right.

Cat: So this is the best way to get something for it. You have to know a couple things going into the process to make sure it goes smoothly.

CS: So this isn’t just for smartphones, this can be for any old cell phone, correct?

Cat: Yeah absolutely. It can be for any phone. It’s great because I have an old Sidekick that I put in there and it was not a lot of money, like six bucks, but I’m like, you know, that’s six more dollars than I would have had before. It’s great.

So if you’re going to do this there’s a couple things you need to know going into it. First and foremost, if you’re going to trade your phone in, you want to get as much personal data off that phone as you possibly can. Or make sure that the company that you’re going to be trading your phone in with is 100% guaranteed to wipe everything off the phone. Take the SIM card out as well because often the SIM card will store data.

It’s a cool thing to do that I highly suggest. It’s an eco friendly thing to do at this point because phones should not end up in landfills. They have toxic chemicals in them that can hurt the environment and they need to be recycled properly so this is a way to get that done too.

CS: So you mentioned $6 for a Sidekick, I think I have an old Mitsubishi phone from like 2001 or something that I doubt will be useful to anybody.

Cat: Right. So if it’s totally not valuable they will recycle it for you. They’ll send you the free shipping label or you print out the free shipping label and they’ll recycle it for you at least. There are phones that are not worth anything, but you should recycle them and this is a really easy way to do that.

CS: Can you get additional cash for things like accessories, car chargers, that kind of stuff?

Cat: No, they don’t give you extra money for those things. But it is good if you have them because you want to recycle them with the phone because who needs another charger?

CS: So where do these phones end up after they get recycled?

Cat: Well after they get recycled they use some of the parts for scrap metal. I’m not totally sure where the end result of the recycled product goes, but products that are able to be salvaged are refurbished and resold or they’re donated to the troops or latchkey kids. There’s a bunch of different organizations that take the phones that aren’t quite great enough to sell, but that are definitely still useful and make phone calls.

CS: Is there a way that people can shop for phones that have been donated just to find a basic use cell phone for a cheap price?

Cat: Personally, I go to eBay. I worked for eBay for a long time. I don’t anymore, but I still highly recommend that as the place to go to buy used electronics. Refurbished electronics on eBay are the best deal you’re going to find. You just have to look at the details of the listing and make sure they have a good return policy and that other people are happy with the place you’re buying something from. But hands down they’ve got the best selection.

CS: For the secure trade in, are there any restrictions in terms of where you have to be located? Is this open to only the US?

Cat: All over the United States, anywhere in the United States. Anywhere that FedEx will ship to that’s where they extend to.

CS: So outside of cell phones I know that we collect a lot of discarded electronics. Are there other similar type programs that exist outside of just cell phones?

Cat: Absolutely. Securetradein.com is going to be expanding, but there are definitely other websites that are fantastic for this. You just need to find out how much the device is worth and then figure out whether to recycle it or get the bit of money that you can.

To find out more about recycling your cell phones, or to learn about the latest gadgets and tech news, visit Cat’s website, HighTechMommy.com.

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