Recycle Your iPhone–While Protecting Your Data (And Making Money)

That iPhone 4 render your 3G or 3GS obsolete? Head over to e-Cycle’s site to earn a quick hundred bucks (or so), while being reassured that your phone will be wiped of its data and properly recycled.

cracked iPhone


e-Cycle, while it might sound like a vehicle in the new Tron movie, is actually a company that will help you securely recycle your iPhone (or your iPad, though what is wrong with you that you already need a new iPad?). e-Cycle, founded back in 2005, has grown 400% over the last three years, fueled in part by entering the i-cycling business. Today, the Hillard, Ohio-based company announced it will be hosting an iPhone recycling booth at the Macworld Expo at the end of this month at San Francisco.

e-Cycle CEO Chris Irion estimates that 9 million iPhones are retired for newer models each year. “Of the estimated 140 million mobile phones discarded in the U.S., only about 10% are recycled. But nearly 50% of these devices still have a resale value,” he said in today’s announcement (e-Cycle doesn’t have exact data on the rate of iPhone recycling). “Selling used iPhones is good for your bank account and great for the environment.”

I just looked into how much money I could fetch for an old iPhone 3GS, using a calculator on e-Cycle’s site. After I selected the 16GB model from a drop-down menu and confirming that the phone wasn’t damaged, e-Cycle offered me $130.00 for the device. Even had I answered “no” to its six questions (some of which seem pretty critical to me–“iPhone turns on and charges?” “Touchscreen works?”), e-Cycle still said it’d buy back the phone for $35.00. If you’re not quite ready to let go but think you might later, you can register on the site for a reminder.

“Most consumers and businesses do not know that their mobile devices still retain value even after two years of use,” e-Cycle’s Paulie Anthony tells Fast Company. But there’s considerable demand for refurbished models.

Security is a significant concern if you’re looking to recycle a smartphone. Conducting a basic factory restore doesn’t always clean out all your data. “We find that many of our business clients and individuals who think they have erased their data have still had private data left on their phones,” Anthony says. Independent forensic examiners audit e-Cycle to ensure they’re wiping what they say they’re wiping.


e-Cycle’s YouTube video gives a sense of the scope of the company (the bulk of their clientele appears to be organizations, not individuals). They’ve recycled over 5 million mobile devices to date, serving about 7,000 organizations.

It’s best, too, for your mobiles not end up in landfills, since they often contain toxic materials like lead, mercury, and arsenic, according to e-Cycle. “A single cell phone contains enough toxic substances to pollute 40,000 gallons of water,” says Anthony, adding that it could take thousands of years for iPhone components to biodegrade. It’s a serious enough problem that 24 states have, or will soon have, measures banning the presence of electronic waste in landfills, ABC reported today.

[Image: Flickr user mager]


About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.