Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Tricks for Old Cell Phones: CollectiveGood

There are millions upon millions of cell phones either lying around collecting dust in people's homes, waiting to be recycled, or which may have already been tossed intot the trash. Millions more will be added to one of these three categories with each passing year. In A Tale of Two Computers, I talked about how recycling electronics was relatively easy compared to other items, because of the existence of numerous ways and opportunities to responsibly dispose of such gadgetry (also referred as "e-waste" or "technotrash", see Green Disk)".

There are

  • periodically scheduled municipal drop-offs (see A Tale of Two Computers)
  • manufacturer or retail store "take-backs". Check out
  • various non-profit organizations that collect them for recycling or that refurbish and redistribute them for use by others (throw the terms +"recycle" and +"cell phone" into your favorite search engine and take your pick)

So, I'll say it yet again:

There is really no good reason not to make the effort to
responsibly dispose of your unwanted electronics!

Furthermore, cell phones as well as other electronic equipment, contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic which the EPA has deemed to be hazardous waste. Therefore, simply throwing your cell phone into the trash is a bad move. If it ends up in a landfill those toxic materials can leach into the ground and seep into local water supplies. This is an even better reason to make the effort as much as possible, to responsibly dispose of your cell phone.

The existence or establishment of processes, policies or programs that facilitate and encourage consumers to responsibly dispose of a product at the end of its useful life is known as "product stewardship" or "extended product responsibility". This helps to minimize a product's impact on the environment. You can read more about this concept at the EPA's Extended Product Responsibility page.


Well, of course I had a couple of old cell phones taking up space and decided it was time to divest myself of them. One of the cell phones that I got rid of was what I fondly refer to as a Nokia brick, circa 1997, as opposed to today’s sleeker and infinitely more compact models. Check out these pictures at the Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunication's Telefone 1863-2000 page, to get an idea of what it looked like! Now, when's the last time you saw anyone pull out a cell phone like that? Yet, Packrat that I am, I had one up until late last year.

GreenDisk, which I talked about in an earlier post, accepts a variety of electronic waste, including cell phones and PDA's. However, for the two cell phones that I was getting rid of, I decided to use another organization called CollectiveGood. They deal specifically with cell phones, PDA's, pagers and related accessories such as battery chargers, and say they accept all makes and models. In fact, they are partnered with Staples to handle the free recycling service for cellular phones, PDAs, pagers, digital cameras, and chargers that the store offers to customers (one component of Staple's big takeback program, which I mentioned above). CollectiveGood will refurbish this equipment for reuse, and will donate a portion of the resulting proceeds to charity. Anything they cannot refurbish will be properly recycled in accordance with the EPA's guidelines.


CollectiveGood's process was pretty simple, which as you know by now, is just the way I like it. At their site all you have to do is:

  1. select a charity from one of those listed with CollectiveGood (your donation will be credited to this organization)
  2. fill out and submit the online form with your contact information so you can receive an acknowledgement of your donation (takes about 10-12 weeks)
  3. print the information/instructions that display once you submit this form and enclose it with your shipment to ensure that your selected charity is properly credited
  4. pack up and send your phone(s) in accordance with those same instructions

Also note!: that whenever, wherever and however you end up donating or recycling a cell phone or similar device, just like a computer, you need to "prep" it. That is, you need to make sure that you have

  • disconnected any services associated with the equipment that you are donating or discarding
  • deleted, erased and/or removed any personal information on such devices (e.g., email addresses, telephone numbers, passwords, photos, etc)

otherwise you run the risk of incurring unauthorized charges or misuse of that personal information. You are responsible for any subsequent mishaps if you fail remove it, not the organization you or donating them to, or any subsequent recipients!!! You can read more about CollectiveGood's polices in this regard at their FAQ page.

The documentation that accompanied your cell phone should have information about how to clear this data from your phone. If by some chance you no longer have the manual (or can't find it) try visiting the manufacturer's website., another cell phone recycling site (I've never used them) has a handy database for finding data removal instructions for a wide variety of cell phone manufacturers and models. Click on the "Erase Your Personal Data" link.


I sent each phone that I had at separate times, however, you can also send multiple items at once. Just make sure to pack them securely. I happened to still have the original boxes they came in, along with the manual and other peripherals that came with them (now, don't even act surprised!), so I packed everything back up in those,I then placed them inside of another cardboard box, just to be on the safe side.

All that was left after that, was to take myself off to the post office, and send them on their merry way.

No comments: