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How to recycle your cell phone

Recycling is no longer just for aluminum cans and glass bottles. Nowadays, even electronics can be recycled. Every year, millions of eco-conscious consumers choose to recycle their cell phones upon purchasing newer models. Thanks to the prevalence of cell phones, such decisions can have an enormously positive impact on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if all of the more than 100 million cell phones no longer being used in the United States were recycled, we would save enough energy to power more than 18,000 homes in the United States alone.

But before recycling your cell phone, there are a few things you must do to ensure you're protected.

* Terminate your contract. Be sure your existing contract is terminated before recycling your cell phone. If you are continuing your contract and just upgrading your phone, it's still OK to recycle your old telephone, just make sure the phone is not still part of your contract going forward.

* Clear personal information from the phone. Once you have upgraded your phone and updated your contract, clear all personal information from the phone. Remove the phone's SIM card and delete all of your contacts, text messages and photos. If your phone had Internet capabilities, make sure you have logged out from any sites you frequently visited, such as e-mail providers or your bank's Web site.

* Contact your wireless carrier. Once you have erased the data from the phone, you might want to contact your wireless carrier. The carrier should instruct you on how to conduct a factory hard reset, which will reset the phone entirely. If you don't want to contact your carrier, purchase a data erasing tool that will erase all of the phone's data.

Once all of the data has been erased, it's time to turn your cell phone in. Cell phone recycling programs are widely accessible, and retailers including Best Buy, AT&T, Office Depot, Samsung, Verizon and a host of other cell phone providers have their own recycling programs. Contact your cell phone service provider or visit a cell phone retailer to learn more about how to recycle your cell phone.