The Insider Scoop on Recycling Cell Phones: The What, Why, and How of Mobile Sustainability

Recycling isn’t just for bottles, cans, and boxes anymore. Our world has evolved far beyond a few soda pop bottles and flattened remains of cardboard box forts. Oh, the nostalgia of clunky recycling bins! With new technology comes new concerns for the planet we call home and new ways to be sustainability advocates in our own homes.

Cell phones are the latest topic in the sustainability realm. We all love the convenience and accessibility our ever-present mobile devices give us. Being able to connect with friends and family across the globe is a fantastic innovation that has benefited us humans greatly over the last few decades. But is global connectivity really good for the globe as a whole?

It may be surprising to discover that cell phones are one of the top items that should be recycled. Behind the emojis and apps lies an interior of hazardous environmental pollutants, heavy metals, and non-biodegradable parts that make throwing away your cell phone a major sustainability no. Recycling cell phones is one of the best, simplest ways to practice going green in your daily life.

Big Sky Recycling is making it easy to recycle old cell phones while supporting fabulous nonprofits at the same time. That’s what we call doubling the love! Charity and sustainability go hand in hand with simplicity and convenience when it comes to recycling cell phones. Profits from all recycled phones help support environmental, social, and military nonprofits.

Learn more about why it’s important to recycle old cell phones and how you can help save the world, one cell phone at a time.


What’s Inside a Cell Phone and Why it Matters

Most of us know the ins and outs of our phones like the back of our hand. We know our favorite emojis, best apps, and VIP list of contacts. But how well do we know what’s inside our phone? The answer might surprise you!


Heavy Metals

Cellular devices contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Cell phone batteries in particular are made of lithium manganese oxide, lithium iron phosphate or lithium cobalt oxide. Just as the name implies, these toxic metals do not degrade easily. Instead, they penetrate soil and groundwater, adding poisonous concentrations to the local environment. The run-off from landfills is harmful to both humans and animals. These heavy metals are highly carcinogen as well as a contributing factor in common birth defects and illnesses. Keeping them far from our drinking water is highly important, especially when the average human goes through one cell phone every 18 months. When combined, that’s a lot of hazardous material to contend with!



In addition to heavy metals, other toxins like brominated flame retardant and even arsenic are present in the tiny components that make up our cell phones. These materials do not break down and can even become airborne pollutants if trash is discarded into a burn pile or incinerated through commercial means.



We’d feel a bit trashy if we didn’t mention the elephant in the room; plastics. From pop sockets to phone cases, one tiny cell phone contains a lot of nasty plastic. A little bit of plastic can take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose completely. Meanwhile, plastics spend their time leaching into the topsoil and creating hazardous run-off. To support a more sustainable future, reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic is key.


The Benefits of Recycling Used Cell Phones

So many environmental issues feel unsolvable by the average person. After all, what can we do about large scale corporations and CO2 emissions or unethical mining practices across the globe?

Start small. Our power lies in everyday choices. Recycling cell phones is a simple, easy way to inspire change. Check out these great benefits of recycling used cell phones.


Energy Conservation

Be an energy advocate by recycling old cell phones. In fact, just one recycled cell phone saves enough energy to charge a laptop for about 44 hours. A record 130 million cell phones are thrown away annually. If recycled they could produce enough energy to power over 24,000 homes a year. Every time you recycle an old phone, you’re powering the planet for a greener, brighter tomorrow.


Offset Mining Impacts

Remember those heavy metals? Each one is a precious, finite resource that’s quickly vanishing. Mining operations disrupt the environment in an effort to collect as many pounds of these minerals as possible. By recycling our cellular devices, we can curb the impact of mining operations and provide a sustainable avenue for production.  One million recycled cell phones can yield 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium. Once processed, new phones can be made with these materials, all without the need for mining.


Give Back

When you recycle your phone with Big Sky Recycling, you’re investing in people and communities as well as the planet. Recycling cell phones for charity is a great way to give back. We are honored to support a number of dedicated nonprofits involved in a variety of causes — from supporting our heroes overseas and planting trees to providing meals for children across the country. Because we’re serious about doing good, we only select charities that pass rigorous third party assessment and review. Before choosing charities, we review financial efficiency, accountability, governance, and fundraising reports provided by CharityWatch and GuideStar.


Data Security

Because people are our priority as well as the planet, we also follow strict standards of operation when it comes to data security. Throwing out your phone is a risky endeavor, not only for the environment, but for your passwords, credit cards, and personal data. Trust your used cell phone with the recycling pro’s instead. We set a high standard of using only R2 certified recycling partners to ensure your data is locked down tight.

Looking for more great sustainability tips? Follow the Big Sky recycling team on Facebook or Twitter and let us know how we can help you live a little greener.