MPC - How to recycle your phone

Got a new mobile phone, or thinking of taking out a new contract? You're probably wondering what to do with your old phone, then. If you want it gone and can't be bothered faffing around with eBay, we recommend recycling it.

That doesn't mean just chucking it in your green wheelie bin, though - it means finding a tech recycler who will buy it from you for real cash. Here's how it all works.

Who will recycle my old mobile?

There are loads and loads of mobile recyclers out there. It includes major tech recycling companies, specialist smartphone recyclers, mobile networks, and various shops and retailers.

These companies work by buying up old mobile phones, then fixing them up and refurbishing them, and selling them on to new owners. Any phones that can't be fixed are broken down, with their parts either used to refurbish other phones or sold on as raw materials.

To find a decent recycler that will buy your phone, your best bet is to compare all the options on your exact model through a recycling comparison site, such as CompareMyMobile.com or SellMyMobile.com. They collate quotes from dozens of recyclers so you can pick one you like.

How to recycle your phone

The good news is that recycling your old phone is incredibly easy. It's really just a case of finding a company that will buy it, sending it off, and getting paid.

  1. Work out what model of phone you have. If you're not sure, you may find this in the manual, you device's settings, or from the manufacturer's website. You'll also need to check its internal storage capacity and what network it's locked to.
  2. Find a recycling company you're happy to sell to, choose the right offer, and sign up.
  3. Package your phone up and send it off.
  4. That should be it - the recycler will pay you through your chosen method once they get your phone and check it over.

What happens to recycled mobile phones?

This all depends on what model your phone is, and what sort of condition it's in!

The first thing that all recyclers do when they receive a new handset is briefly check it over. They check the phone's unique IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) number against a database like CheckMEND, which tells them whether the phone has been reported as lost or stolen. They'll also look at the basic state of the phone to see what's working and what isn't.

Next, they make sure that all personal data on the device is totally wiped.

Then they get to work. The majority of phones are refurbished and sold on - any broken or aging parts are replaced, and the phone is generally spruced up so it's as good as new. Some refurbed phones are sold right here in the UK - especially more recent models in excellent condition - though most go overseas. The Middle East, Asia, South America, and various parts of Africa are all common new homes for old handsets, depending on the recycling company.

Phones that can't be fixed (or won't sell for enough money) are broken down and truly recycled. Any useful bits are taken out and re-used in other refurbs, and all plastic and glass is taken out for re-use too. Electronics like mobiles are packed full of valuable metals and other elements, which can be extracted and melted down - such as gold, platinum, nickel, and copper.

Why should I recycle my phone?

There are a few good reasons to recycle your old phone:

  • You'll earn some cash, for a start.
  • It's low hassle. Recycling your phone can be less financially fruitful than selling through a site like eBay, especially if it's a fairly recent model, but selling to a recycler means a lot les faff.
  • De-cluttering. A junk drawer filled with old, useless electronics is no use to anyone.
  • It's environmentally friendly. Even in cases where you don't make a lot of cash by selling to a recycler, it's far better than just throwing your phone away. Old electronics can seriously harm the environment if they aren't disposed of properly - something a recycling company can do.

What are my other options?

Selling your phone - to a friend or family member, or through a site like eBay or Gumtree - is probably your other best option. Recent smartphones in particular can get you a decent bit of cash.

You can also trade it in to your mobile network when you move on to a new contract - though you don't tend to get as much money as you do through a specialist mobile recycler.

Many charities also accept old mobiles as donations, if you're feeling generous. They take all the handsets people have donated and sell them to the recyclers they prefer, and get some money for their causes.

Or, you can let it fester in a drawer for a bit.

Just kidding. Don't do that. The sooner you sell or recycle a device, the more you'll get for it - and the more useful it is to its next owner.

Can I really trust these mobile recyclers?

There's a reason we recommend using a comparison site: so you can find a recycling company you trust, and know that all your options have been vetted by the site itself.

If you're unsure about a recycler, you can check its reviews on comparison sites, look up their TrustPilot ratings, and see what people are saying about them on social media. We'd check their websites' 'About' pages as well as their terms and conditions too.

Luckily there are loads of recyclers around - there will always be one worth selling your gadgets to.

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