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Phones

Top green cities in the US for recycling phones, tablets, and other electronics

See how your city compares to these green e-recycling machines.

Derek Poore/CNET

If you've just bought a new phone, you may want to make sure the old one is properly recycled. But your recycling options may vary, depending on where you live. 

In the US we toss out around 150 million mobile phones each year and only recycle 20%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). China, which has been the world's largest importer of recyclables for decades, is now banning the transport of No. 3 through 7 plastics, leaving the US scrambling to find other options.

When you throw a phone or other electronics in the trash, they wind up either incinerated or lodged in a landfill, slowly leaking lead, mercury and other harmful metals into the groundwater and air, according to ecoATM, an eco-friendly kiosk that pays you to recycle your devices.

Partner companies ecoATM and Gazelle said that they've diverted over 19 million devices from going to landfills through trade-ins, sales and recycling "ATMs." And they're not alone. Best Buy, SellCell and Back Market are all marketplaces that have together recycled, resold or refurbished millions of phones and tablets based on what ordinary people bring in.  

These four companies gave us their list of cities that account for the highest number of mobile phones and tablet trade-ins and recycling donations. How does your city stack up?

Top green cities according to SellCell, Best Buy, ecoATM and Gazelle, and Back Market

SellCell Best Buy ecoATM and Gazelle Back Market
1. Chicago, IL 1. Cleveland, OH 1. New York City 1. San Francisco, CA
2. New York City 2. Orlando, FL 2. Chicago 2. Portland, OR
3. Los Angeles, CA 3. Chicago, IL 3. Los Angeles 3. Seattle, WA
4. Dallas, TX 4. Piscataway, NJ 4. Atlanta 4. Denver, CO
5. Atlanta, GA 5. Atlanta, GA 5. San Francisco 5. Austin, TX
6. Houston, TX 6. Chino, CA 6. Houston, TX 6. Twin Cities, MN
7. Washington DC 7. Elkridge, MD 7. Dallas, TX 7. Chicago, IL
8. Philadelphia, PA 8. Tracy, CA 8. San Francisco, CA 8. Miami, FL
9. Pueblo, CO 9. Compton, CA 9. Philadelphia, PA 9. New York City
10. Orlando, FL 10. Boston, MA 10. Seattle, WA 10. Burlington, VT

Of course, the data here is interesting, but imperfect because it only reflects how often people donated to a specific company. But there are some parallels. For example, Chicago made the top 10 for all four marketplaces. New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Orlando, Houston and San Francisco also appeared twice.

The real takeaway in all this is that when you're ready to part ways with your old electronics, you have a lot of recycling options to choose from, wherever you happen to live.

Read more: The best way to recycle your old phone, laptop, TV and batteries

Read also: Go greener with these cool eco-friendly products

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