What to Do With Old Cell Phones: A Complete Guide

Isaac Fernandez

In the last twenty years, cell phones have become an integral part of our everyday life. What started as a way for us to stay in touch with family, friends, and work colleagues has evolved into what may be considered an extension of our physical body and overall existence. We now use cell phones for almost every aspect of our lives—from ordering food and capturing moments with friends to paying bills and even finding our significant other! Cell phone usage is at an all-time high, and it’s going to be on the rise for years to come. They are everywhere now, and unfortunately, that also includes landfills and even our oceans.

That’s why it’s important that we learn more about cell phone recycling and reusing, as these practices can not only help save the environment but may also help the less fortunate around us. If you are making the switch to the latest iPhone or Galaxy phone, here are some things you can do with your old phone that will help make a difference.

What to Do With Old Cell Phones

What to Do With Old Cell Phones

Keep It as an Emergency Phone

If you are simply upgrading phones and your old phone is still in working condition, the easiest and most pragmatic thing you can do, after switching phones without losing data, is save your old phone and keep it as an emergency phone. You never know when accidents, such as dropping your phone in water or having it stolen, will happen. Sure, you may eventually find ways to get your phone back, but in most cases, you would probably have to get a new one. In either case, you will most likely have to wait a couple of days to have a phone again. And that’s exactly when emergency phones come in handy. Even if it’s not in perfect condition, any working phone can be used as an energy phone—as long as it can make and receive phone calls. Even older phones can be used as emergency phones, not just smartphones. You will be surprised to learn that even decade-old flip phones can still be activated by most major carriers!  

 If you are upgrading smartphones (i.e. going from the iPhone 8 to iPhone 10), old phones can serve many purposes beyond being a simple “emergency phone.” You can repurpose old smartphones, delete old data and get rid of any viruses on the phone, and turn them into dedicated media players for your home or car, dedicated alarm clock, and more. With advanced features like cameras, note-keeping apps, and media players, these are all kinds of cool projects you can do with old smartphones.

Make Some Extra Cash

If you are upgrading phones and need some extra cash, consider selling your old smartphone as soon as you make the switch to a newer model. Because new smartphone models are constantly being released, it’s crucial that you put your phone on the market early before it loses (more) relevance so that you can get a better price for it. There are many ways you can sell old cell phones today. The easiest way is by using one of the dozens of apps and online platforms that allow your offer to reach a wide audience of potential buyers. Some of the most popular apps for selling old phones include Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, Craigslist, and eBay. 

Before listing your phone on any of these sites, you may want to consider reaching out to friends and people in your social circles. While transactions on the above-mentioned apps are safe, selling to someone you know and trust can provide you with better peace of mind.  

Donate Old Cell Phones

If you don’t think you can get a good price for your old phone, or if you simply don’t want to go through the hassle of finding a buyer, consider giving it away or donating it to charity. Not only is this an easier option for getting rid of an old phone, but you will be making a genuine difference in the life of someone in need. 

While most of us may take phones for granted, not everyone has access to one. By donating your old phone, you will be improving the life of a person in a way they may otherwise not be able to afford. There are many programs nationwide that are dedicated to providing phones to those in need. Programs like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Goodwill, and Cell Phones for Soldiers will find your old phone a new owner at little or no cost to them. You can also call your local shelters to see if you can drop it off to help people in their locations.

Where to Recycle Old Phones 

If your phone is completely unusable and can’t be repurposed, it may be time to dispose of it. However, the trash can in your kitchen is not the right place. If none of the above solutions work for you, the best option is to recycle your old cell phone. Many electronic stores have special recycling bins for old phones and other devices deemed to be obsolete like broken tablets, old MP3 players, and even laptops. If you can’t find a store that will take your old phone off your hand, check with your county’s waste management department for safe ways to recycle or dispose of any old cell phones you may have collecting dust around the house.


If you have old cell phones lying around the house, the last thing you should do is throw it in the trash. From donating to recycling, there are many things you can consider doing with your old phone. The best part is that you will be helping the environment and the people in your community! Do you have more tips for things to do with old cell phones? Let us know!

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