Recycling Wireless Devices and Accessories

As the wireless industry continues to innovate and develop new wireless devices and accessories, it’s important to recycle “old” devices and accessories. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling one million cellphones saves enough energy to power more than 185 U.S. households with electricity for a year.

Whether it's through a provider, manufacturer or a third party organization, there are a variety of recycling options. But before you recycle your wireless device, follow these eight steps to remove your personal information:

  1. Back up the information on the device to a PC or service provider (e.g., cloud).
  2. Notify the wireless service provider (and if appropriate, your office’s IT team) that the device is no longer in use.
  3. Overwrite and delete all passwords, PINs and OTPs (one-time passwords). Don’t forget Wi-Fi passwords and personal account information on apps or website, such as banking.
  4. Overwrite and delete security settings parameters, such as unlock pattern, facial recognition, remote access passwords or keys (and if appropriate, your office IT team will remove your work VPN login).
  5. Delete all personal information and applications (e.g., pictures, texts, social networking profiles, etc.).
  6. Delete peripheral device settings such as Bluetooth (e.g., in your car, earphones, etc.).
  7. Remove any installed Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) and delete or erase all files stored on the SD memory card (if applicable).
  8. Use data eraser apps AND reset the wireless device to default factory settings. BEFORE resetting your device, use a data eraser app. Here’s a list of app erasers (also called “wipe”) for Android, BlackBerry, iOS (Apple), Symbian and Windows.

You can go the extra mile and download “dummy” files on to the device. Dummy Files, or stand-in files with no substantial content but are recognized as files on phones, can be created by an app downloaded from a mobile app store to fill a phone’s memory to capacity, ensuring new files are not created on the phone.

Now that you’ve safely removed your personal information your next decision is to where you donate your device. There are a variety of options from carrier- and manufacturer-sponsored initiatives to third party organizations, such as drop-off or mail back programs, websites and charity drives. If you're not sure where to recycle your devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, cellphones, etc.), all major carriers and many others will accept any device or accessory at their stores, regardless of which carrier provided your service.

As part of our site, we also list our members’ consumer recycling programs. Visit the website for more information about the wireless industry’s commitment to being “green.”

Last updated: November 2013
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