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How to recycle your mobile

By Luke Thompson
Monday, August 11th 2014

Recycling your mobile phone isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for your bank balance too. Depending on the make and model of the phone, you can money from online recycling firms. But that’s not the only way to recycle your old handset.

You can donate phones to charity, sell them, hand them on to friends and family, and more. Whichever method you choose, here is everything you need to know to safely recycle your mobile phones.

Prepare your mobile

It’s time to start your recycling adventure. First, you need to prepare your handset. This involves ensuring that there isn’t anything personal left on your phone’s memory. Always assume that your handset will be thoroughly examined. While this is unlikely to be the case – most handsets are broken down for parts – it does mean that you won’t wake up in a cold sweat after remembering something that you forgot to delete.

Delete your personal data and contact information

Mobile phones aren’t just tools; they’re personal devices. And they’re full of information you wouldn’t want to share, including contact information, private text messages, photographs, saved emails, documents, and recorded videos. To quickly delete this information, you can perform a factory reset.

How to do a factory reset

A factory reset will remove all the data on your mobile device instantly and return your phone to its initial settings. The way this is done varies by make and model. Generally, you head to your phone’s settings and select the ‘restore factory settings’ option. This should initiate a factory reset. Even with this done, it’s wise to look through your phone memory to make doubly sure that everything has disappeared.

Take out your SIM card

It can be an easy step to miss, but before you send off your phone, be sure to remove your SIM card. Your SIM card contains a lot of personal information that isn’t erased by a factory reset.

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Ways to recycle your phone

From selling it online to donating it to charity, there are plenty of options for recycling your old handset. We’ve outlined some of the methods in the following section.

Recycle your old mobile for money

Getting rid of a relatively modern mobile? You can turn it into money by recycling through an online ‘mobile purchasing’ company. Most of these websites operate identically. You visit the site, enter your phone’s model, receive a quote, and then you can accept the quoted price or look elsewhere.

Trade in your phone on the high street

Alternatively, you can recycle your mobile by trading it in at a highstreet retailer. Stores like Carphone Warehouse offer good prices for your old handsets. You can also find stalls offering trade-in prices for your mobile at general markets.

Recycle your mobile for charity

Donating your mobile is another great way to recycle. There are several ways you can do this. The first and most obvious is simply dropping your phone in at a local charity shop. Another option is to donate your phone to an online charitable scheme, such as Recycle4Charity.

While these methods are direct, you can make more money for your chosen charity by following a slightly more complicated route. Instead of giving your mobile to charity, sell it yourself. Then, when you donate this money, not only will your chosen charity receive the money you’ve raised, but thanks to the Gift Aid scheme they can also reclaim your tax, adding a further 28% to the donation.

Pass your phone on

Alternatively, instead of recycling your phone, you could pass it on to friends or family. This can be a great way to keep your handset in use.

Sell your phone at auction

An online auction site like eBay is the perfect place to sell your old mobiles – assuming you’re not in any rush. Bear in mind that while you may make more money through this method, you’ll also have to pay listing fees and additional small charges.

Set up a car boot sale

It might be an unusual method, but if you have more than one mobile, you could make money by selling them at a car boot. But remember, you’ll need to get up very early to bag a good spot and catch the eye of passing buyers.

Dispose of your mobile safely

If you don’t want to recycle your phone in the above ways, you can still dispose of your handset responsibly. Most mobiles are full of chemicals and materials that won’t break down effectively in a standard landfill, so they should be disposed of in a correct manner.

The WEEE disposal directive

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) applies to all countries in the European Community, and refers to the disposal of electrical equipment. For consumers, the WEEE directive means that you can dispose of your electrical equipment safely and easily without harming the environment. You can do this by taking your old mobile to an electronics retailer where they are legally obliged either to relieve you of it for free or direct you to a local recycling location.

Harmful substances in your mobile

You need to be careful when disposing of your handset. This is down to the harmful substances that are released from your mobile as it begins to degrade. These substances are mostly a threat to the environment, but they can also be dangerous for humans. Some of the substances in your mobile may include:

  • Arsenic
  • Brominated flame retardants
  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Lithium
  • Mercury
  • Zinc


Recycling your mobile helps the environment, but it can also be of personal benefit by bringing in some extra cash. The process can be as simple or as complex as you wish to make it, but no matter how you recycle your mobile you’ll be helping to prevent environmental contamination by not just throwing it in the bin.

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