Where do your old phones end up?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| October 26, 2012


When I purchase a new device, I’m very quick to get all of my information from my old phone to my new phone and then leave my old phone lying around in some inconspicuous place for months. I’ll always catch a glimpse of it here and there, think to myself I should probably do something with that, and then walk away and forget about it until two weeks later when the cycle repeats itself.

I kind of have this hoarding problem when it comes to cell phones. I always thought that the moment I decide to get rid of my old phones, the next day I’m going to need it for whatever preposterous reason. I don’t know why, or how, because I haven’t needed these phones for quite a few years now, but I will need them. So I’d make up excuses and would just let whatever sibling wanted to play with them have them for a couple of hours.

It wasn’t until maybe a year ago where I decided to get rid of the extra clutter and let go of my serial hoarding of all of my precious phones. I really wasn’t doing anything with these phones anyway. So, depending on the condition or how attached I was to the device is what would determine its fate. If it was in good condition and I know I’ll never go back to that device, I’ll either sell it or give it to somebody that needs it, whichever opportunity arises first. If it’s in decent to poor condition, I’ll take it to a store to recycle it or donate it.

Before I worked at Sprint I never realized how important it is to donate or recycle your old phones. Despite the condition of the phone, most of the time you can always harvest some parts from the device and use it to help fix other people’s phones that may only need one or two parts replaced. I’ve heard other carriers don’t repair phones, but they donate their phones to places like the military or refurbish them for people with devices that have no hope of ever seeing the light of day again.

I almost always have one or two friends on Facebook updating their status saying their phone is broken and they need a new one, but their upgrade isn’t available yet and they’re looking to purchase any device from whatever carrier they’re using. I’ve only ever had Sprint, T-mobile, or prepaid devices so it’s a 50/50 chance that I had something for them, but it’s a great feeling when I am able to help a friend out.

I have a friend whose whole family has a drawer of communal phone donations. They call it their “phone graveyard”, and it’s what they use when somebody breaks a phone and needs a fast replacement. The inside of their drawer had maybe 10 to 15 different phones in them, ranging from entry-level Android to Nokia bricks. It was actually kind of fascinating going through their old devices, almost like a journey through history type of thing. When I asked why they have so many, they said their family has just had really bad luck with phones. Sure enough, maybe a month later, my friend’s younger brother was walking around with a Motorola KRZR instead of his usual Palm Pre. At least he didn’t have to choose the brick.

Every so often we would have people come in with a box or two full of phones and chargers they didn’t need any more. It took some time to scan them in, and most of the time there wasn’t any buyback credit for the devices, but for some people just knowing that these phones won’t end up in a landfill somewhere means something. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a phone in the trash, but I have heard one or two stories of somebody finding a phone in the trash that actually still worked. I decided not to ask what they were doing in the trash in the first place, but whatever they were doing worked out well for them if they still found a working cell phone.

So readers, do you have your own “phone graveyard” in your home? Do you recycle your phones, or take advantage of a buyback program? Let me know what you do with your old devices! 

Images by The Gadgeteer and Green Biz


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