Not surprisingly, there is a downside to our increased reliance on tech toys: electronic waste ("e-waste") that ends up in our landfills.
Consumer electronics often contain toxic substances such as cadmium, lead, mercury, beryllium, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), to name a few of the nasty ones, and this toxic runoff poisons our soil, water and ecosystems.
Cell phones and smartphones are culprits, too, not to mention we ditch them more often than other consumer electronics products like televisions, computers, cameras, and the like.
If you're unable to sell or donate your aging phone — both options are better than recycling — the first step is to properly back-up your important information.
Not only could you use the info on your next phone — such as contacts, calendar appointments, documents, photos, notes, web bookmarks, and so on — but you don't want this personal (or professional) data falling into the wrong hands. To do this, connect your smartphone to your computer to perform a back-up, copy all the contents to a removable memory card (if your phone takes one) or use one of the many password-protected "cloud" (online) services available.
To restore your device back to its original settings, take out the SIM card and memory card and go to your phone's Options or Settings menu. This process varies between devices but all phones let you restore to its original state.
Once you have a clean phone, you can properly recycle it by dropping it off at a consumer electronics retailer (such as Best Buy or Staples), wireless carrier store (such as an AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon location, for example) or a non-profit group in your area that have programs to recycle or refurbish unwanted consumer electronics products.
The U.S. Postal Service also has an extensive "Mail Back" program that allows customers to recycle small electronics and inkjet cartridges for free (more info here). Other options for donating and recycling are at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website or consider companies like CellForCash.com that give you money for used mobile phones (usually newer ones).
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