April 16, 2019

Safe disposal of cell phones

Dear Consumer Ed:

I have an old cell phone that I want to dispose of. How can I do this in a way that will not harm the environment and will prevent others from obtaining any personal information that is or was stored on the device?

Consumer Ed says:

Most electronic appliances (such as cell phones and computers) contain materials that are hazardous to the environment. However, there are several well-established companies created to deal with this exact problem. They will recycle computers, monitors, laptops, copiers, mainframes, disc drives, cables, telephones, CD players, photo systems, modems, printed circuit boards VCRs, projectors, power supplies, fax machines, keyboards, networking equipment and other items.  

Before recycling your cell phone, you’ll want to securely wipe your data to prevent anyone from accessing your personal information. Follow these steps:

  1. Back up all data and contacts.
  2. Remove external storage such as the SIM card and microSD card.
  3. Unpair devices.
  4. Deregister your phone from your accounts. Sign out of email, Find My iPhone and social media apps, then clear the data from these apps. Sign out of/remove iCloud, Google and Samsung accounts.
  5. Verify that your device is encrypted to prevent someone from restoring any deleted files. iPhones since the 3GS are encrypted by default. For Android devices, go to Settings > Security and look for an “Encryption” setting. If it says your phone is encrypted, you’re all set. If not, tap “Encrypt Phone.” The encryption process may take a few hours. If your Android phone is older and does not have an encryption option, you can do a factory reset, then use an app like iShredder 5 to erase the free space on the phone, and then perform another factory reset.
  6. Erase your device with a factory reset. For iPhones, go to Settings > General > Reset and tap “Erase All Content and Settings.” For most Android phones, this is under Settings > System > Reset > “Erase All Data (Factory Reset).”

Now you’re ready to safely dispose of your phone. First, remove the batteries. Visit call2recycle.org for a location near you that safely recycles batteries.

To recycle your cell phone or other electronic devices, contact one of the following Georgia E-Waste Recyclers:

Keep Atlanta Beautiful, Inc.
P.O. Box 77712
Atlanta, GA 30357
(404) 249-5853
[email protected]

eWaste ePlanet
2775 Bankers Industrial Drive Suite E 
Atlanta, GA  30360
(404) 295-9220
[email protected]

Atlanta Recycling Solutions
Contact: David Loxsom & David McClesky
Alpharetta, GA
(678) 566-6665
[email protected]

ITAD Technologies
Contact: Beth Roach
Norcross, GA
(770) 695-4229
[email protected]

Metal Conversion Technologies
Contact: Steve Pledger
Cartersville, GA
(678) 721-0022
[email protected]

Novus Solutions, LLC
Contact: Ronnie Doane
Marietta, GA
(678) 416-6384
[email protected]

Premier Surplus Inc.
Contact: Phillip Kennedy
Dawsonville, GA
(706) 525-3050
[email protected]

Southern Waste & Recycling, Inc.
Contact: Phil Kitchens
Atlanta, GA
(770) 490-1995
[email protected]

ViaTek Solutions
Contact: Brian Loftin
Lawrenceville, GA
(770) 290-3890
[email protected]

Submit your own question to Consumer Ed.  Remember…we do not give legal advice. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.

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