Cash for Cells

Raise your hand if you have a drawer filled with old cell phones just waiting to be responsibly recycled. Keep your hand up if most of those phones have been in the drawer for over a year. Of the 160 million cell phones discarded annually, 75 percent of them end up in drawers or trash cans. A new company, Cycled Cells, takes in old cell phones, sometimes paying for them, and either recycles the phones or, if they can be rehabilitated, distributes them to phone-needy people around the world. They even pay for postage. [%comments]


In the UK we have had this sort of thing for quite a while. It really is brilliant.

I just sold my old NOKIA n95 when my contract finished for around £100. Much easier than messing about with eBay. They don't require the charger, box, instructions, sim card etc, just the phone and the battery!

Anand Bala

Wow! Finally they catch up!
There are shops all over India (all cities and towns) that will pick up your cell phone for a price, fix it and resell it at a price.
Its been happening for ages and not just with phones. It happens with even newspapers and polythene bags.

I guess people in the South just know that recycling makes economic sense and need not necessarily come with a halo of charity. I guess the environment is seamlessly integrated into the psyche of the people.


or, you can drop them off at your local Staples store for recycling which is what I do. Although, I'm not sure if they actually recycle or end up dumping to third world countries...


US in mobile phone catchup shocker :)


@jbr - Wouldn't "dumping to third world countries" be even better than recycling it? In fact, it's the ultimate recycling.


In Spain the red cross made a huge advertising campaign last year and asked people to donate their old mobile phones.

Here is the link


— sygyzy
"@jbr - Wouldn't “dumping to third world countries” be even better than recycling it? In fact, it's the ultimate recycling."

-No. Many times 3rd world countries don't have the resources to responsibly recycle these devices when they are truly at the end of their useful life. The end result could be just adding it to an unregulated landfill.

Garvit Sah

If the old phone is being refurbished and provided to others for use, it seems like a perfect form of recycling. What one needs to appreciate, however, is that these rehabilitated phones might have a small useful life remaining. They will, in many instances, be discarded after being used for a small period of time and then add to e-waste of that third-world country.

Though the costs of disposal of such waste will be lower in the developing country as compared to a developed country, more often than not, the developing country would not have enough resources to spare. If Cycled Cells intends to be truly green they must invest some money in waste disposal projects in the developing countries for each cell phone it sends to that country.


Or we could demand phones with a longer lifespan to begin with...


Great business.

The problem with just donating for free it is that the average person has somewhat limited incentive to do so, other than just being a good person. Plus, if their current phone breaks, it's a good back up, which is an incentive that often outweighs being a good person...


Wow! I just sold my old iPhones and BlackBerry on this site for a couple hundred dollars. What a great deal!

Easy process and polite service (I wasn't sure what condition my phones were in).

What a great idea!


People need to be careful of assuming they "distribute them to needy people around the world." It's one thing if they don't claim that and they just resell them for more profit (which is the most likely scenario). But by claiming that's how they run this business (it is a business right?), they are being unfair to the consumer. For instance they pay you $116 for an old iPhone. Do you think they are making $116+ on "recycling" or "donating the iphone to a needy person?"

Companies that are tackling e-waste should be applauded and should start more companies like this. Just make sure that when you're looking at these types of companies, look for the ones who are up front and tell you, "yeah, because we deal with all the hassle, we're going to buy your phone for $100 and resell it for $115." Nothing wrong with that.

Buts don't think that on "CycledCells, you're going to get $116 and donate your phone to a poor needy individual. That $116 will get turned around for $130+ on an e-commerce site.



While not being paid for our old, disused, outdated phones, Mobile Muster is an organisation here in Australia which promotes mobile phone recycling.

The phones here are dismantled and parts recycled - batteries and circuit boards sent to South Korea, and the plastic casings recycled here in Australia to make composite plastic products.

Mind you, there should be a bit more room in our land fills now as non-biodegradable plastic bags from supermarkets have been banned in South Australia ...


All of my phones have broken within a year of purchase, and I'm generally careful with electronic goods. Do people really buy phones frequently enough to have some that aren't used and work?


Any old cell phones I've had, I've turned in to a woman's shelter near here. They're able to lend them out for 911 service to women who need them. Anyone who doesn't have a shelter nearby can contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to find out how to donate theirs.

I suppose I could have held out for money in return for my old phones ... but they're being put to good use.


One great option for cell phones is to donate them to your local domestic violence shelter. We remove all information, test them, and then give them to victims of domestic violence. They often times become a life-line to 911 services. These donated cellphones have saved many lives just in my small community.


This is not new. For many several years, enterprising school organizations have been holding cell phone collections as fund-raisers to offset costs of field trips, band uniforms, etc. I think they usually turn them in to recyclers who strip out the valuable components. Same for I-Pods.


A company called ReCellular in Dexter, Michigan, has been doing this for a number of years and collects an enormous number of phones every year.


This company is incredibly forthcoming with its distribution method. Jim, you accuse CycledCells of being disingenuous, but I doubt you took the time to read what CycledCells was saying about itself. If you had taken the time, you would have noticed that nowhere on CycledCells site do they claim to “distribute them to needy people around the world.” I'm afraid you came to that conclusion by what freakonomics said about the company, a review that is unfortunately misleading.


Cycled Cells Is The Best