Do I Need to Erase My Cellphone Before Recycling?

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Flickr - Earth911

Flickr – Earth911

Consider how ubiquitous cellphones are today — can you go into public for even a few moments without seeing a dozen of them? — and it becomes clear that recycling phones is increasingly important.

And yet, not many people are taking that extra step when they upgrade to a new device. Reports show that cellphones are recycled at a rate of somewhere around 8 percent to 12 percent, leaving plenty of precious resources that could be reused. Not only that, but the materials in a phone can pollute up to 40,000 gallons of groundwater if that phone is disposed of improperly in a landfill.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that recycling phones isn’t all that difficult. Organizations like Call2Recycle, a non-profit battery stewardship organization that collects cellphones and rechargeable batteries for recycling nationwide, makes it easy for consumers to find a location that collects old cellphones. Then Call2Recycle and their processors do the rest by extracting the reusable materials to make new batteries and products, or refurbishing and reselling them to help fund the recycling and education program.

Many consumers wonder, though, whether this process will keep their personal information safe. Given the ever-growing problem of identify theft, this is a valid concern. Plenty of personal data like phone numbers, email addresses and passwords are stored in your phone. Some people may feel uncomfortable handing their device over to a stranger without taking a hammer to it first. Luckily, that amount of precaution isn’t necessary if you use a well-known recycler.

Call2Recycle recommends erasing the memory in all the phones before recycling them. Doing so is quick and easy; you just need to follow the instructions provided by your phone’s manufacturer or do a quick Internet search. Odds are a video exists that will show you the steps for your specific device.

The Wireless Alliance, a cellphone recycler, provides video instructions for how to erase data from many popular phones (from a few years ago). Erasing the data on an iPhone, for example, only involves pressing a few buttons on your screen. Just go into your phone’s settings, select “General” and then scroll down to the bottom of the screen and select “Erase.” The whole process should take you less than a minute, and then you can rest assured your personal information is safe before you send your phone off on its new life.

Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. Call2Recycle is one of these partners.

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