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How to recycle electronics: Easy ways to earn cash for your old devices

Be honest, when was the last time you threw out a device? Electronics are expensive, and it can be painful to part with something you spent several paychecks saving up for – but did you know you can actually earn cash recycling your tech?

Whether you’ve got a pile of old phones at home or you’re getting ready to replace your PS4, here’s everything you need to know about recycling electronics.

According to a study conducted by the Royal Society of Chemistry, 51% of UK households have at least one unused electronic device at home, but only 18% intend to recycle them.

While there’s nothing wrong with holding onto an old phone as a backup, the majority of these households can count up to five unused devices – that’s an estimated 40 million devices gathering dust in homes across the UK.

A quick eBay search might have you questioning who would even want your cracked iPhone 4. It’s interesting to note that, while there certainly are businesses hoping to rehome your tech to a new user, much of the time recycling firms are more interested in the components inside the device than how it looks on the outside.

There are around 30 rare elements crammed into one smartphone, including non-renewable sources, that are needed to build solar panels, telescopes, fire-sprinkler systems, LED lights, camera lenses, surgical implants, supersonic aircraft, hearing aids, pacemakers and can even be used in the fight to end cancer. That isn’t even to mention all the elements that could be implemented in future tech to treat disease and to fight pollution.

Six of these elements are expected to run dry within the next 100 years. Chemical scientists are investigating long-term substitutes for precious materials now, but you can help in the meantime by recycling your old, broken and unused devices so those elements can be harvested and reused.

Related: Best phones

How to recycle electronics

If you do have a broken laptop laying around or an old TV taking up space, you have a couple of options when it comes to parting with them.

Recycling services, trade-in schemes and selling devices secondhand can all be done easily, either in-stores or online. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle and your device is in relatively good condition, there’s also always the option to hold off on upgrades or to pass on old devices to friends, relatives and charities. Not only will these methods often save/earn you a bit of cash, but you’ll also be doing some good for the world by bringing life to an old device instead of buying new.

Over a third of those put off donating their devices cited concerns about personal data and security. While in most cases a factory reset will do the job, there are many specialists out there, including in retail stores, happy to talk you through the process of securely backing up and wiping your phone or laptop.

Where to recycle electronics

The Royal Society of chemistry found that 29% of people hold off on recycling old tech because they just don’t know where to go. Here are the simplest and most convenient places to visit to recycle your electronics.

Tech retailers

Currys PC World offers free recycling in-store for any electronic device, regardless of whether or not that device was purchased through them. The retailer is also happy to remove any small devices from your home for nothing during delivery and will pick up bigger devices, including kitchen appliances and widescreen TVs, for around £15.

Argos will recycle any large appliance for £14.99 if the driver is already out for delivery. Apple accepts old devices to be recycled. In some cases, you can even earn a bit of store credit.

Carphone Warehouse will recycle any old handsets brought to its stores. As an added bonus, the company will also donate £10 to charity for every phone it receives, including £5 to young helpline Get Connected.

Related: Best laptops

Mobile networks

O2 and Three have zero landfill policies, meaning that any device donated will be responsibly reused, refurbished or recycled in exchange for cash. EE also has a trade-in system, as do many online phone recycling services, such as Mazuma Mobile. It’s worth checking a few networks to see which is offering the best deal for your device.

O2 recently teamed up with charity Hubbub to connect Southwark households in need with friends, family and key services. If you live in the London area and have a mobile device, you’re looking to part ways with, Community Calling is asking for mobile donations now.

Battery collection services

Even if your spare device cannot be recycled, it is important to responsibly dispose of batteries as they often contain heavy metals and pollutant chemicals. Many retailers offer battery collection services, including supermarkets and DIY stores.

Local recycling

If you’re unsure of where your nearest electronics recycling point is, you can check right now at recyclenow.com, recycle-more.co.uk or simply by searching ‘recycle electronic devices near me’ on Google.

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