How to recycle your old mobile phone

You may be surprised to learn that the average person gets a new mobile phone every 18 months. As such, it is estimated that some 77 million phones are lying around unused in the UK alone. With these astonishing numbers only likely to increase in the future, it is important to realise that throwing your old phone in the bin causes significant damage to the environment. Regardless of how old and useless your old phone might be, it can leak toxic waste and chemicals that can damage wildlife and pollute water sources, if thrown away.

What’s more, up to 80 per cent of a phone is recyclable, so don’t send it to landfill or leave it in the drawer – recycle it! While many people will be familiar with selling their phone online, there are plenty of other ways to dispose of an unwanted phone.

  1. Take it to a recycling centre. To make sure that the phone gets recycled in the correct way you should make sure it goes in the container marked ‘small electricals.’


  1. Trade it in for money or vouchers. There are plenty of companies who are willing to give you money for an old mobile phone, although how much you get will depend on the make, model and condition of the device. Before sending your phone off however, it is worth doing some research on the company to make sure you are happy with where the phone is going and what you will get back. Some bigger businesses will even let you trade in your old mobile for vouchers. In the UK for example, the supermarket Tesco will give you food vouchers and Clubcard points for your old handset.

It is worth noting that these companies will firstly check the phone’s IMEI number to make sure the phone has not been reported as lost or stolen. This is to prevent thieves from making money off stolen phones.

  1. Take it back to the shop. If you’re not bothered about making money or picking a charity you can simply take it back to the shop you bought it from. Most mobile retailers have recycling schemes of their own and donate some of the proceeds to charity. If your phone is very damaged this is a great way to get rid of it quickly.


What happens to the phone when you recycle it?

The phone is Refurbished

Most old phones that recycling companies receive go on to be refurbished. In this case their parts are checked, and any broken aspects are replaced before the refreshed version is sold on or given out as a replacement phone to other customers that have broken theirs. In most instances, these older models get sold in emerging markets across the globe.

The parts are Recycled

If a phone is beyond the state where it can be refurbished, then its parts will be extracted, separated out and melted down. Phones contain lots of plastic, and tiny bits of metals like platinum, gold, silver, copper, nickel, and cadmium – all of which can be recycled. Parts from your phone’s circuit board might end up in a kitchen appliance, for example.


Important things to remember before recycling your phone

Mobile phone SIM cards often contain a lot of personal data such as phone numbers, banking apps, and old messages. Before sending your phone off to be recycled it is important that you remove your SIM card and cut through the metal chip before you throw it away to ensure that no one else can get their hands on your sensitive information.

In addition, many modern smartphones use Micro SD cards to store photos, videos and downloads. This memory card should also be removed from your mobile before recycling to prevent people seeing your old photos. The card can then be used in your new mobile or in other devices like digital cameras or video recorders.

Finally, it’s likely that your smartphone will contain the login information for your email or social media accounts, and the web browser may still contain your browsing history. To prevent others from getting hold of this you should perform a factory reset on your phone, which will wipe all this data.

Will you recycle your next mobile phone? Let us know in the comments below and, if you found this post interesting, check out some of our others.