What to do with
Mobile phones contain a range of materials including metals, plastics and several valuable components - such as silver - which can be extracted and re-used. There are an increasing number of options for recycling and re-using old mobile phones.
It is important to ensure that your personal data is removed from your mobile phone before you pass it on or send it for recycling.
Pass them on
The main channels for disposing of mobiles are the shops that sell them, but there are other organisations and charities that accept them for refurbishment and recycling. 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!
- Most charities accept old mobile phones, whether they are working or not. They can raise valuable funds by passing them on to mobile phone recycling companies.
- Pass on items for free at places such as Freecycle and Freegle
- Or sell them! Why not try the comparison tool on the Money Saving Expert website to find who’s offering the best price or sell them yourself on websites like eBay and Gumtree
- When you buy a new mobile phone in a shop, ask how you can recycle your old one. Most provide postal envelopes you can use. For example, Geek Squad allow customers to drop off their old phones into over 700 Carphone Warehouse stores across the country. You could get cash for your phone or a deposit towards a new handset.
- If your unwanted phone is in good working condition and reasonably up-to-date, shops such as Cash Converters and CeX buy electrical or electronic items, especially if you have the original box and instructions etc.
- If you'd rather not 'recycle' your phone using any of the above, you can dispose of it at most household waste and recycling centres in the containers marked "small electricals".
- If you simply wish to recycle the battery pack of your mobile phone, see our page on batteries for more information.
How are they recycled?
Most schemes recover and re-use various parts from phones and their accessories. Parts recovery may include:
- Separate metals recovery (including precious and semiprecious metals): The mobile parts are ground up and useful metal content extracted. Metal can be extracted from batteries too.
- Plastic recovery: energy-from-incineration is used to recover plastic from components. Outer body plastic may be granulated and reformulated for use in mouldings.
- Recovery and downgrading of valuable components: e.g. flash memory devices.
- Re-use of parts: Useful parts include aerials, battery connectors, PCBs (printed circuit boards), connectors including gold-coated edge contacts on PCBs, ICs (integrated circuits), keyboards, LCD screens, lenses, microphones, phone housings, screws, SIM card assemblies and speakers.
- Many manufacturers have signed up to the Basel Convention agreeing to cooperate with developing environmentally sound management to end-of-life mobile phones.
For peace of mind, remove your personal data
It’s up to you to make sure your personal data has been, or will be, removed from your mobile phone. Take care of your personal data and reduce the risk of it being used by someone else. Check out the latest advice from the independent consumer organisation Which?: