If they are taken by a cell phone company, they are usually refurbished and re-sold. If you take them to an e-waste company they are generally broken down into different parts – those that are like circuit boards with heavy metals, plastic parts that may be recyclable, and then trash.
Cell phones are being recycled. Visit your cell carrier’s site to learn about their policies. Some, like Sprint, will give you a discount for a new phone when you return your old phone. Also stores like Best Buy will have recycling kiosks where you can recycle your cell phone, printer cartridges and more, including TVs, monitors, and computers.
You can also look into a number of programs like GRC Wireless Recycling. This organization is committed to zero-landfill cell phone recycling and helps nonprofits and schools build fundraisers around recycling cell phones.
Visit: http://www.bestbuy.com/recycling or http://www.grcrecycling.com/.
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