The Feel Good Options
You actually have a number of opportunities to donate your phone, if you’re so inclined. Domestic abuse shelters generally have standing request for cell phones — just drop it off at the local center in your town. Cell Phones for Soldiers also collects used phones for soldiers currently serving overseas. Many schools and community organizations will collect cell phones along with other supplies (blankets, clothing, food, etc.) in the event of a natural disaster.
If these charities don’t appeal to you, CollectiveGood maintains a list of organizations that accept donations of used cell phones, as well as handles the donations process for those organizations. Some require you to pay shipping; some don’t.
As long as you are donating your phone to a non-profit organization, you can deduct the value of your cell phone on your taxes come next April. Make sure that you get a receipt listing the value of the phone — and if it’s used, that value will be significantly less than what you paid for it — just in case the nice folks down at the IRS want to doublecheck your deductions.
If you just want to get the darn thing gone, you can also just give it away. Freecycle is a popular option — you can post your phone on your local group no matter its condition. If someone can use it, it’s gone almost immediately. Remember, though, most official donation programs promise to wipe all of your data from your phone. Freecycling your phone leaves protecting your personal information up to you.
The Financially Pleasant Options
Is your phone in decent shape? You may have a shot at selling it. eBay remains a favorite sales option, but it isn’t the only one. If you can sell it locally, you may be able to avoid fees and postage. Beyond Craigslist, you might try Facebook’s Marketplace or check if your work or school maintains a swap board of some sort. Just make sure that you clear off all your personal information before you hand your phone over to its new owner.
With the exception of practically new phones in high demand, the odds of getting anywhere near what you paid for it are slim. Cell phones and other electronic gadgets are like cars: once they leave their packaging, they depreciate pretty fast. If there is a newer, cheaper version out, you may just have to settle for a lower price.
You can also choose to sell your phone to a reseller. There are a number of companies that will buy your phone for fairly close to market value and then turn around and resell it. You won’t get top dollar, but you won’t have to worry about actually finding a buyer, either. Gazelle is one option and Flipswap is another. Both of these resellers have feel good options: you can donate the payment you might receive for your phone to charity.
The Get It Gone Options
Many cell phone sellers offer electronic recycling programs. Some are contingent on your buying a new phone from the seller in question, although Best Buy has a pilot program accepting old gadgets in eight states — you can find a list of participating stores here.
If you want to make your cell phone recycling process super easy, ask the salesman when you pick up your new phone. As long as the store has some kind of recycling or donation program going on, leave it in his capable hands. Congratulations! Your phone is gone and you didn’t have to drive all over town to find it a new home.
If Your Phone Has Gone to the Charging Station in the Sky…
These options may not work for you. Most of these organizations don’t take phones (or other gadgets) that no longer work. Some, like Gazelle, will still take your electronic waste off your hands, but they won’t pay you for it. You can still get that feel good vibe, though, by recycling your phone, rather than throwing it away. You can either mail it in, or take it to a local program — not all municipalities have e-waste recycling programs, but the number is steadily growing. Both Gazelle and Flipswap will take dead phones, although you won’t get a payout from them.
One Last Note
If you have gadgets to get rid of beyond a cell phone, you can still use most of these options. Laptops, cameras, MP3 players, camcorders, portable hard drives — whatever you’ve got, there are options to get rid of it when you decide to upgrade. Just like cell phones, though, you can’t throw any of these gadgets in the trash. They contain a variety of chemicals that won’t biodegrade in a landfill. In many cities, you can face fines if you’re caught dumping electronic waste. Even if you aren’t caught, isn’t it preferable to let someone else get a little more use out of it?