4 Eco-Friendly Ways To Recycle Your Old iPhone

Apple's newest iPhone models are nearing release, which means one thing: Plenty of people are about to ditch their current iPhones. Luckily, there are ways to upgrade your phone without contributing to landfill waste in the process.


May 26 2019, Updated 11:56 a.m. ET

Since 2007, there have been 7.1 billion smartphones manufactured. While this is enough to give every person on the planet a phone, production is higher than ever to feed to market’s demand for newer and shinier models. Consequently, the average iPhone tends to be about two-years-old when it is traded in. 

But where do all the phones go once they’re swiftly replaced? According to the Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, less than about 16 percent of e-waste is recycled. Many phones find their way to landfills but heavy metals can leech into ground water. As a result of the fast turn over and minimal recycling, e-waste has quickly become an environmental concern which tends to spike when Apple announces new model releases. Luckily there are a few eco-friendly options we can chose as consumers. 

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1. Check out Apple's recycling program.

Apple has acknowledged the issue of e-waste and back in 2014, the company collected more than 40,000 tons electronic rubbish. Apple has also taken steps to offer solutions for it’s consumers. Apple’s Recycling Program is managed by a third party, PowerON Services, and gives customers the chance to return their phones. The company assesses the value of the phone and takes it back in exchange for an Apple Store Gift Card matching the item’s fair market value. The company will accept generally any Mac or PC product for it’s recycling program. 

Apple products will be recycled for free but non-Apple-branded products are charged a $30 if it has no monetary value. To participate, customers are encouraged to perform a back up and data wipe before sending in their device. Once sent in, the equipment is tested and qualifying pieces will be sold in the secondary market to extend it’s life, while other items that can’t be reused are recycled in a responsible manner. 

Apple also invented a line of disassembly robots called Liam. These nifty bots can take apart 2.4 million phones a year. By creating efficient recycling technology, Apple is able to give new life to high quality components and reduce the need to mine more resources.  

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2. Look into your trade in options.

If you’d prefer to skip the Apple Store Gift Card, your wireless carrier might offer another trade in alternative. Carriers such as AT&T and Sprint offer programs which can apply the value of your traded in phone towards your bill. If you don’t want to deal with your carrier and want to get value of the device another way, Best Buy and Target also offer programs exchange for gift cards. Just need cash? ecoATMs offer money right away for your old phone.  

3. Consider upcycling your old iPhone.

Upcycling old phones is another good alternative than tossing the device in a drawer or in the trash bin. The great thing about smart phones is that that they don’t necessarily need cell service to be useful. For example, you can turn your old phone into an extra music device and stream music on Wi-Fi. Another useful money saving option is to turn the phone into a hand me down to kids who can play games on it. By finding other uses for an older phone, it prolongs its life and doubles as a back up in case your newer one is accidentally damaged or lost. 

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4. Donate your iPhone to those in need.

If you don’t want to recycling, resell or reuse your phone, a last resort is to give it to someone who needs it. There are several programs like Cell Phones For Soldiers that will happy find a helpful way to repurpose your phone. Other groups like Women Against Abuse or Medic Mobile are also great causes. Now that you have so many options at your fingertips, how will you dispose of your old cell? 

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