Do you have a growing pile of phones burning a hole in a drawer at home? Or maybe an old TV taking up space in your garage? Electronics are expensive and it can be tough to part with a device you once saved up for. Luckily, there are loads of ways to recycle your old tech – and you might even be able to earn some cash along the way. Here’s how.
According to a survey conducted by the Royal Society of Chemistry, 51% of UK households own at least one unused electronic device but only 18% of those households plan to recycle them.
While it isn’t a bad idea to hold onto an old phone in case your current handset is dropped or stolen, the majority of those households are holding onto up to five unused devices. That’s an estimated 40 million devices gathering dust in homes across the UK.
Why you should recycle old electronics
It turns out there are around 30 rare elements crammed into any smartphone, including non-renewable sources needed to build solar panels, telescopes, fire-sprinkler systems, LED lights, camera lenses, surgical implants, supersonic aircrafts, hearing aids, pacemakers and even elements used in the fight to end cancer.
Six of these elements are expected to run dry within the next hundred years. While chemical scientists are currently looking into long-term substitutes, recycling your cracked iPhone 4 could offer those elements a new life in the meantime, whether that be as a phone or as part of something bigger.
Read on to discover the easiest ways to recycle your tech, or visit our guide to donating your old gaming consoles to find out more about giving your PS4 or Xbox 360 to charity.
How to recycle old electronics
Your options range from recycling services and trade-in schemes that operate free or in exchange for store credit, to selling your devices second-hand via the web.
If you’re happy to offer your tech up for free, you could also consider passing on your old devices to friends, relatives and charities. Not only will this save your loved ones a bit of cash, but you’ll also be doing some good for the world by rehoming an old device and discouraging others from buying new.
If you’re a tech fan, or have a friend or relative, there are also creative ways to re-purpose your old tech. Sites like Grid take old tech and transform it into framed art for your home, offering a great way to commemorate your old iPhone 4S or BlackBerry Bold’s life in service if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic.
One common concern people cite when holding onto their old devices is that they’re worried about their personal data and security.
In most cases, a factory reset will wipe your data from the device, allowing you to pass it on to another individual or group with no worries. If you’re still unsure, it may be worth visiting a specialist for guidance on backing up and wiping your device safely and securely.
Where to recycle old electronics
Here are some of the most convenient locations to visit – in-person and online – to recycle your old tech.
Currys PC World offers free in-store recycling for any electronic device, regardless of where you bought it. The retailer will also remove any small devices from your home at no cost if you have a delivery scheduled, and can pick up larger devices – including kitchen appliances and widescreen TVs – for around £15.
Argos will recycle many large home appliances for £19.99 when out for a delivery, or simply by booking the service through the company’s Live Chat. Argos will also recycle any tech you bring into its store for free provided it sells a similar item and you’ve bought a replacement from the retailer in the last 28 days.
Apple accepts old devices to be recycled. In some cases, you can even earn a bit of store credit to spend on your next upgrade.
Carphone Warehouse will recycle any old handsets brought to its stores. As an added incentive, the company will also donate £10 to charity for every phone it receives, including £5 to young people’s helpline Get Connected.
O2 has a zero landfill policies, meaning any device donated will be responsibly reused, refurbished or recycled in exchange for cash.
EE and Three also have trade-in systems that allow you to earn money, as do many online phone recycling services, such as Mazuma. It’s worth checking out multiple networks to find out which is offering the best deal for your device at any given time.
O2 has also teamed up with charity Hubbub to connect Southwark households in need with friends, family and key services. You can donate any working smartphone to Hubbub via post now by following the instructions on its website.
Battery collection services
Even if your leftover devices can’t be recycled or rehomed, it’s important to responsibly dispose of the batteries as they can contain heavy metals and pollutant chemicals.
Many retailers offer battery collection services, including supermarkets and DIY stores.
You can also choose to recycle your devices locally.
If you’re unsure of where your nearest electronics recycling point is, recyclenow.com, recycle-more.co.uk or searching ‘recycle electronic devices near me’ on Google should give you directions to your nearest location.