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by Larry

February, 2013

Billions in Stowed Away Cell Phones

Only in the past few months have Valerie and I begun sending and receiving calls on a mobile phone I acquired in 2010, our first such non-landline telephonic communication device, so recycling unused cell phones is hardly priority number one at our house. Besides, it only cost $30 new. Retrieving its hidden value after a few years' use, when we finally give in and replace it with something a bit more 21st Century, will hardly be an issue. However, according to a 2/14/13 announced survey by (a major cell phone recycling company), "2013 Mobile Mountain Study," folks in the U.S. harbor almost $34 billion worth of unused but still quite functional cell phones in their homes and could be cashing in on them to the tune of about $180 per average household.

Consumers possess about two cell phones per home that could be sold. Only around one in five though recycle their phones by selling them to such companies as Reasons given for not doing so vary and include simply not wanting to bother as well as being concerned that personal information still on the phones might put them in jeopardy or feeling they do not have the time to make such exchanges. Some simply do not realize they can sell their old or unused phones. Particularly with a slow economy, there are many millions of us who could appreciate an extra hundred or two hundred bucks, and the risk from misuse of our info is considered small. Online resources can make the time factor minimal.

A number of mobile telephonic devices fetch far more than the $90 or so mean rate for used phones. For instance, various models of Apple iPhone will typically bring their sellers $500-600 apiece, and some Samsung Galaxy models bring in close to $300 each.

As for the concern about one's private info, it is important to wipe personal data from telephonic devices before selling or otherwise recycling them, but in most cases it is not a big deal. One can go to "factory reset" and follow the instructions.

The supply and demand reality comes into play when phones are just hoarded. Devices not in circulation mean that those which are available, both used and new, remain at unnecessarily elevated price levels. Ultimately, if more cell phones are used and reused fewer will need to be made, meaning less load on the environment from manufacturing processes, unsafe disposal, overburdening of landfills, or inefficient use of resources.

I encourage the curious to check out the pro and con arguments for selling old, unused phones. If the choice is to cash in on them, companies such as these can help:,, and

Primary Source: Consumers Sitting on $9 Billion in Old iPhones. Quentin Fottrell in Market Watch, 2/19/13.

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