According to the Federal Trade Commission, the two most common ways to get rid of your old phones are to recycle them or donate them to a worthy cause. Of course, that doesn’t count the infinite number of forgotten phones stashed in desks and junk drawers.

Both of the popular options are good ones. Recycling old phones ensures that they’re disposed of properly — including the proper disposition of any hazardous materials — and that any useable parts get new life. Donating them gives you a simple way to help out a charity.

Where to Recycle

Maybe you have old cell phones you’d like to recycle, but you don’t know where to take them. The Environmental Protection Agency says that many manufacturers and retailers will take back your old phones when they’re obsolete or you just don’t want them anymore.

For example, stores like Best Buy and Staples, manufacturers like Samsung and Nokia, and service providers like Sprint all have their own recycling programs. Contact the relevant companies if you have phones in need of disposal.

Places to Donate Old Cell Phones

There are many great programs that accept old cell phones as donations. For example, you can donate phones to be used by soldiers to call their families. This program is run through the Cell Phones for Soldiers website. It’s a great way to give something back to the people who serve our country. The soldiers treasure these phones because they become a precious link to their loved ones.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also accepts cell phones to raise money that helps abused women. The coalition refurbishes and sells as many phones as possible and makes sure the rest are recycled properly.

The Cell Phone Bank is another worthwhile organization that takes old cell phones and distributes them for emergency use to law enforcement agencies and groups that help victims. A phone that’s useless to you could become a lifeline in the hands of someone who needs a way to communication in an emergency, like a battered woman whose husband has taken her regular phone to prevent her from calling for help.

Selling Old Cell Phones

Some people also sell their old cell phones. This is a particularly popular route if your phone is still relatively new or desirable, but you bought a new model and just don’t want it anymore.

Classified sites like Craigslist and auction sites like eBay make it easy to match up your specific phone model with a buyer. You might think your old phone is ready for the trash, yet it could be just the treasure someone on the other side of the keyboard is looking for. They might want to replace a favorite model that they lost or get a part to repair their old phone because that model isn’t sold anymore.

Beware of fraud if you take this route, as scammers love online sales sites. Never agree to a transaction outside of eBay if you list your phone on the site, and only sell to Craigslist buyers who are willing to meet you in person and pay cash.

Prepare Your Phone before You Get Rid of It

No matter how you get rid of your old phones, there are still some important steps to take to ensure that you don’t hand out personal information. The Federal Trade Commission advises you to reset your phone to factory specifications if you have a model that allows it.

Your device might have a “wipe” option that will automatically remove all your personal data, so be sure to use it. It may be called “factory reset” or “hard reset,” so look for those options in your owner’s manual. If you don’t have the manual, the manufacturer’s website might have this information.

Once you’re done with the wiping process, make sure all your photos, contacts, data folders, emails, texts, search histories and documents are gone. The phone should be a clean slate, with nothing left to link it back to you.

Next, remove your SIM and SD cards. You might be able to use your old SIM card in your new phone, but take it out of the old one even if you have no use for it. Otherwise you’re potentially handing sensitive data to the new owner.

No matter which of these disposal methods you choose, you’re accomplishing two important things. First, you’re either making a little extra money or helping out a charity. Second, you’re ensuring that your phone will either get a second life as someone else’s treasure or that it’s disposed of safely.

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