4 Ways To Unload Your Old Cell Phone

Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 5:27 PM EDT

Even with the headlines this week screaming that cell phones are "possibly carcinogenic," experts say most users have no reason to change their phone habits.

But there is one habit you might want to rethink: shoving old cell phones in the junk drawer when you upgrade to a new one. According to EPA estimates, one billion cell phones are gathering dust in American homes. Here are four strategies to try with your old mobile instead:

Get Cash. Many sites, like uSell.com, Flipswap.com, or Gazelle, will pay you for your old phone. If maximizing profit is your primary motivator, and you're willing to deal with the hassle, there's always good ole' eBay. I typed in the model number of an ancient Nokia we have hanging around here on uSell and Flipswap. No dough, unfortunately. But I like the idea of shipping it off to uSell, which promises if they can't refurbish it to sell on the secondary market, they'll take it apart and recycle each piece. According to the website, the company has a 0% waste policy.

Don't procrastinate. According to uSell CEO Doug Feirstein, the prices change (read: drop) daily. You could see a significant reduction in the price your phone commands from week to week. uSell guarantees their bids for 15 days.

Trade it in. Check with the carrier to see what you can get. Verizon Wireless and AT&T, for instance, offer online appraisals and they'll give you cash or gift cards for turning in your old model. That knowledge can be powerful when you go to get your new one (although I've never had much luck effectively communicating with those tie-clad 22-year-olds at the carrier's stores). Readers, if you've gotten good results haggling when you're trading in a phone, like you would a car, please share your secrets below.

Donate it to charity. My colleague Marlys Harris has a hilarious account of recovering her old cell phone, which was in a bin at a Verizon store, headed for the women's shelter. Many stores collect old phone for charitable purposes. If you ship your oldie off to Cell Phones For Soldiers, the organization will sell it and use the proceeds to pay for calling cards for troops in need.

Recycle it. Easiest way to keep it out of a landfill? Put your zip code in at Call2Recycle, and they'll spit out a list of nearby stores like Radio Shack, Staples and Home Depot where your phone can be dropped off. Before disposing of your phone, be sure to clear off any stored information with a master reset.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Dominik Syka, CC 2.0
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