hand holding cellphone, waste bin full of old cellphones

We live in an era of constant upgrades. Cell phone manufacturers are constantly unveiling new models of phones hoping to entice new buyers.

If your cell phone is on the fritz, it’s a good idea to ask some basic questions before you decide to replace it. In some cases, phones are too difficult to repair to make it worthwhile and it is best to find a new phone. Other times, repairing your existing phone is a good option that conserves resources.

Is your phone difficult to repair?

Some phones just need a new battery installed and will be back in business. Oddly, this can be super easy in some phones and quite a challenge with others. Look up the iFixIt repairability score for your phone to determine if your model is difficult to fix.

Although repairs should be easy and the right-to-repair movement is growing, phone manufacturers habitually glue screens to the bodies of phones, prevent batteries from being replaced easily, and frequently use components that tear or break when the device is opened.

There is also a wealth of information available on the internet about repairing cell phones. Look up the specific issue you are having for tips and videos on how to remedy it. iFixit’s repair guide home page is a good place to start whenever you have a question.

Does your cell phone have water damage?

If you dropped your phone into water or another liquid, the first thing to do is to turn it off. Pat the cell phone dry with a towel and do not charge it.

It’s important to resist the urge to turn it on to see if it still works. Take out the SIM and any other accessories and pat them dry. Now, take a bowl or bag of uncooked rice and submerge the phone in rice to absorb the water.

Wait at least 24 hours. You want the phone to be completely dry before you attempt to turn it on.

Does your phone have the features you want?

New features drive the upgrade cycle for phones and computers, but do you always need the Next Big Thing if your phone satisfies your needs? A third or fourth camera may be cool, but do you really need professional photo features? Does that face-recognition security add protection for your valuable secrets if all you do is share recipes or chat with your family, or does your current PIN provide the privacy you want?

If your phone is easy to fix, consider whether the phone meets your needs before upgrading. In many cases, new models look flashy but don’t necessarily offer new and improved features. It is tempting to make an impulse purchase but this isn’t necessarily worthwhile or best for the planet.

Is it important to recycle a cell phone?

Phones are made out of valuable materials that are energy-intensive to mine and manufacture.

Donating or recycling cell phones is a great way to conserve resources. For every million cell phones recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered, according to the United States EPA. Before recycling your electronics, always delete all personal information.

To find recyclers in your area, visit Earth911 Recycling Search. We maintain one of North America’s most complete recycling databases.

This article was originally published on July 9, 2019.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.