With technology evolving at such unprecedented rates in the modern world, the question many consumers have today is what to do with their old stuff. Many people simply decide that their old laptop or cell phone is junk and toss it into their household garbage. While this might be an efficient use of time, it is terribly inefficient in other ways. The most notable negative side effect is of course the harm such actions do to the environment. Google “computers pollute landfills” or something similar and you can find out how the industrial metals and engineering that go into today’s technology can rapidly deteriorate and pollute their surroundings. With more and more people purchasing ever growing numbers of technological devices, these trends are only going to escalate in the years to come – especially when one sees how quickly technologies like smartphones are beginning to spread across developing countries. A few quick facts I pulled off the ‘net stated that cell phones are the fastest type of manufactured garbage in the USA. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Americans discard 125 million cell phones annually, thus producing 65,000 tons of waste.
Luxury vs Necessity
Since this is a personal finance site, I also feel compelled to point out that I’m not a big fan of young people upgrading their technology just for the sake of having the newest thing and/or trying to be the hippiest hipster at the coffee shop. Some people like to throw around fancy terms such as “lifestyle inflation” to describe times that people get rid of stuff in their life that is fulfilling their needs, but they just want better stuff. I call it: thinking you’re rich when you’re probably not (all Scotia Bank commercials aside). If your relatively well off and you want the luxury of having the newest thing, then by all means go for it. It seems more and more though the grey area between luxury and necessity is getting blurred, especially concerning products that have names beginning with “i”. If your current cell phone is functioning fine and doing everything you need it to do, should you really be spending the bucks to grab a new one? The average American (couldn’t find Canadian stats but I would assume their similar) now buys a new cell phone every 18-24 months. That is a tiny bit insane when you think about it rationally.
Related: Is Smartphone Insurance Worth it?
Recycling and Making Money
Ok, *steps down off of soapbox* so now that you’ve decided you either need a new phone, or can afford the luxury of upgrading, let’s get back to the question of what to do with the old one. As far as your pocketbook is concerned, the best thing to do is look for a way to turn last year’s “must have” into cash for your next big consumer-driven adventure. There are plenty of ways to find out where to sell an iphone (only losers such as your fiscally responsible parents have that old model anyway) or how to turn your old Samsung into cold cash. Simply Googling around to find the most advantageous location to you is your best bet, but you can probably walk into most big box stores and their sales team will probably help you out if they think the information will help them get the commission from your next purchase.
If you don’t care about getting a little bit of cash back from your old wares, the EPA has set up various drop boxes all over the USA, and similar programs exist in Canada. There are also some cool charities out there that will take your phone and send it to an impoverished person somewhere in the world. Smartphones are one of the fastest growing tools in the education universe due to their relative cheapness and their ability to access the internet.
Don’t Be “That Guy”
I should also mention that before you let your old phone go it is vitally important to make sure all of your old personal information is wiped off. This might seem like common sense, but apparently there have been cases of identity thieves retrieving this information and using it to harm the past owners. Personally, I got my tech-guru buddies to take a look through it before I gave up my old phone. I’m not usually labelled as a “tree hugger”, but stuff like making sure your cell phone doesn’t end up in a landfill seems pretty common sense to me. Even if you’re like me and are only an “environmentalist” in the most lazy and basic way possible, finding a way to recycle your old cell phone is just a good thing to do.