How to Safely Destroy Old Cell Phones

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 1:14 pm, Posted by Absolute Destruction

If we asked you to show us your cell phone right now, would you feel comfortable doing it?

If you’re like most people, this request would probably fill you with some trepidation. You’re most likely signed in to your social media accounts, and you’ve probably entered your credit card details for online shopping, banking, or transportation — to name just a few uses.

Just like with our personal devices, work cell phones will store sensitive and important client and employee contact information. They’ll also have been used to access work email accounts and to download confidential files.

When we’re finished using an old cell phone — perhaps it broke, or we simply want an upgrade — we’ll often leave the old one in a drawer somewhere gathering dust. If this sounds all too familiar, this post might help you understand the importance of safely destroying old cell phones — for workplace security (secure data destruction is one of the most robust types of data security), personal security, and the environment.

Improperly Disposing of Cell Phones Risks Identity Theft or a Data Breach

If you were to simply throw your cell phone away, it could fall into the wrong hands. Once your residential or commercial garbage is placed outside your property, it's no longer in your legal domain — meaning that passersby are allowed to rummage.

Cell phones hold a wealth of personal or professional information (or both!). Data can be used on a personal cell phone for numerous illegal practices, including taking over your bank accounts, transferring funds, committing medical fraud, or committing identity theft.

Inefficiently destroying corporate cell phones could see the phone finder holding the information ransom for financial gain, leaking data, accessing and corrupting important files, and stealing intellectual property. In some professional environments, securely destroying defunct e-waste — like employee cell phones — may be a legal requirement.

Improperly destroying cell phones also has environmental ramifications.

Throwing Away Cell Phones Is Bad for the Environment

It's vital for the environment to destroy old hardware and devices — like cell phones — safely and securely. Devices like these contain hazardous material; when disposed of incorrectly, they leech toxic chemicals — like lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium — into the soil and surrounding water supplies. This contaminates them and makes them hazardous for humans and animals while also hindering the successful growth of plant life.

Further, cell phones are primarily encased in plastic. If a cell is disposed of incorrectly, these plastics can contribute to a substantial environmental concern — microplastics. According to the UN, there are 51 trillion microplastic particles in the world’s waters — higher than the number of stars in the sky by over 500 times. Microplastics have been found in fruit, vegetables, fish and our drinking water.

Unfortunately, a factory reset is insufficient to remove data from a cell phone before throwing it in the garbage. A savvy thief will still be able to access files stored on the cell’s memory. The only way to clear your phone of this data is to manually override it with non-sensitive data in its place — and this involves some technical know-how to do it successfully.

There are several ways to destroy old cell phones safely.

Manual Destruction

You can use a hammer to manually smash your cell into smaller pieces, destroying sim cards and flash storage in the process. While effective at demolishing your phone, this isn’t a completely safe system for you, or your data.

Wearing goggles and gloves is advised, and microplastics are sure to be produced and distributed during this method. You also need to be entirely certain that the parts of the cell phone that hold important information are beyond repair or retrieval.

This option is generally ill-advised for company phones due to liability issues should employees injure themselves.

Ensure Your Old Cell Phones Are Safely Destroyed with Absolute Destruction

At Absolute Destruction, we offer residential and commercial electronic document destruction. Our trained and bonded team members use industrial-grade shredders, which guarantee the effective destruction of your old data — like cell phones.

When you work with us, you’ll receive a Certificate of Destruction when the job is complete. We also have a robust environmental policy; all reusable materials are recycled — minimizing your personal and professional carbon footprint and the environmental strain that often comes with cell phone destruction. This is a benefit to individuals, but also to a company’s environmental mission: a Deloitte study found that “23% of consumers say they will switch to buying products from an organization that shares their values on environmental issues.”

Old hardware and devices hold an abundance of personal and professional information that can be used with ill intent should they fall into the wrong hands. Make sure you safely and efficiently destroy your old cell phones. Connect with us today to learn about both ongoing and one-time data and document destruction options.

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