Our old phone cases come with quite a dilemma; how do we sustainably get rid of them? New phone, worn or broken case…whatever the reason, you have an old phone case in hand and you’re not sure what to do with it.
As that phone case that you put on your very first cell phone is probably still sitting somewhere in a landfill (sad in a few different ways, I know), we’ve put together a list of options for what to do with those old phone cases so others don’t meet the same fate.
We’ve broken down the easiest ways to close the plastic phone case loop with the 4 R’s;
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & (Don’t) Repeat.
Let’s get started:
1. Reduce + Buy Better (Or Not!)
First and foremost, a new phone is a new opportunity for buying a better case. And by our definition here at Grow Ensemble, a better case means better for the planet (and us people living on it, too)!
So, save your future self the trouble and buy a sustainable phone case that was made with its disposal in mind. Here are a couple of our favorite options:
Sustainable Phone Case Options
Pela is a Certified B Corporation and Certified Climate Neutral company that made the world’s first completely compostable phone case.
That’s right, when you’re done with your Pela Phone Case, you can toss it into your compost.
The Pela Case has been designed with its end-of-life in mind—roughly 6 or so months later after disposal, your case will have broken down with no left behind microplastics or toxic residue.
→ Learn more by reading our full review of the Pela Phone Case, here.
A Good Mobile Case
Later to the game than Pela, there’s A Good Company’s A Good Mobile Case.
Like Pela, A Good Mobile Case is designed quite similarly.
Made from Swedish linseed, your A Good Mobile Case will break down just as the Pela Case would.
→ Read more about A Good Mobile Case, here.
Reducing the demand for new hard plastic also includes donating our old plastic to give it a second life. Local shelters for our unhoused neighbors are a great direct-to-need source for your old phone cases, and your old phones, too!
- Goodwill accepts phone cases in clean, good condition
- Plato’s Closet, and other clothing resale stores, also take tech accessories within 2-years in good, clean condition and will pay you cash or store credit for anything they accept!
2. Reuse + Get Creative
Let’s face it: it’s hard to get rid of hard plastics that already exist, especially in the form of old phone cases that no longer fit or protect our devices. This does not mean, however, that they are our burden to bear forever in their outdated state.
If we didn’t happen to avoid a plastic purchase in the first place (don’t sweat it, you know now!), one of the easiest ways to lessen the negative impact of any plastic product is to make sure it goes from single to multi-use.
Old phone cases are functional in a number of ways that aren’t limited to our devices:
- Tray use; an old phone case allows for a handy tray surface. Bars of soap, sponges, shower products, etc, all fit soundly atop an old phone case.
- Cord wrap; an old phone case is the perfect size to wrap your cable accessories and keep them organized and ready for travel.
Reusing old phone cases takes a little DIY and a little thinking outside of the hard-plastic box.
This video is a great example of even more ways to Reuse that old case.
3. Recycle The Right Way
Finally, Recycle. An old phone case may no longer be functional for you, but its base components may be functional as something else! Here are a few ways you can responsibly recycle that phone case.
Terracycle is a free recycling program that accepts hard-plastic tech accessories that we sometimes simply don’t know what to do with. In three easy steps, they’ve made it easy for you to Recycle:
- Collect your old phone cases
- Download Terracycle’s free shipping label
- Mail it in and let Terracycle handle the rest!
Terracycle works with recycling facilities to break down our old plastics into their raw materials so that they may be cycled into new uses. As a bonus, the Terracycle recycling program offers rewards in the form of donations to a school or organization of your choice. Doing good while doing good!
Like Terracycle, Pela 360 has made it easy for you to close the loop of new plastic. Follow their 4 steps for turning in an old case, and for buying a new case:
- Start by buying with Pela– eliminate the dilemma from the get-go
- Along with your Pela case purchase, you’ll receive an extra envelope to send back your old phone case.
- Mail in your old Pela, or conventional plastic case, back to Pela (envelope included, but stamp isn’t!).
- Let Pela compost or upcycle your old case
→ Shop compostable cases and recycle here: Pela 360
Freecycle is a neighborly network focused on local free-giving and getting. Think Craigslist without buying–everything is free! Visit Freecycle.org to search for your town to list your cases and maybe even find a ‘new’ one!
Freecycle brings us to the final R– don’t Repeat.
4. (Don’t) Repeat
While there aren’t as many options as we’d hope for what to do with those old phone cases, there are some!
Certainly, one of the most impactful things we can do moving forward is to make sure we’re not in the same situation in the future—an old (most likely plastic) phone case in hand, at a loss as to what to do with it.
Instead, make sure your next phone case is a sustainable one and support the “circular thinking” of companies like Pela or A Good Company who are taking responsibility for what happens to their products at the end of their useful life.
Better yet, if you don’t mind having a pre-loved phone case, consider giving one a second life.
While we wait for companies to catch up, we hope this starting point will help reduce that pile of old phone cases so you can enjoy your new tech dilemma-free.
Any other ideas for what to do with your old phone cases? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.
Ana Reyes Bonar
Grow Ensemble Contributor
Ana Reyes-Bonar is a Texan-Puerto Rican writer born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.
She received her MFA in Writing & Activism from the Pratt Institute and has contributed to lifestyle publications with a consistent focus on culture and sustainability. She has a self-proclaimed degree in viniculture, as well as vinyl and book collecting.