How to recycle your old electronics – and earn some cash in the process

Your old phone might be worth more than you’d think… but only if you recycle it. Here’s how to recycle your old devices and do some good for the world.

According to research by the Royal Society of Chemistry, 51% of UK households have at least one unused electronic device gathering dust at home but only 18% actually intend to recycle it.

This may not sound like a huge issue. After all, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea to have a backup phone ready for when you drop your shiny new Samsung Galaxy S10 on a night out. But almost all of these households have up to five, which adds up to a potential 40 million devices laying unused in homes around the UK. 

There are around 30 rare elements crammed into one smartphone, including non-renewable sources that are also needed for use in solar panels, telescopes, fire-sprinkler systems, LED lights, camera lenses, surgical implants, supersonic aircrafts, hearing aids, pacemakers and even in the fight to end cancer. Not to mention all of the elements that could be implemented in future tech to treat disease and fight pollution.

Six of these elements are expected to run dry within the next 100 years. So, what can we do?

“Chemical scientists are already working to find ground-breaking solutions – by investigating long-term substitutes for rare elements in devices, or by finding new chemical methods to extract precious materials and reuse them – but we all can and must do more,” said Royal Society of Chemistry CEO Robert Parker.

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The Royal Society of Chemistry has called for everyone to take responsibility before these elements run out for good, from manufacturers pushing out repairable and recyclable designs, to retailers introducing take-back schemes, to the government providing guidelines an infrastructure to support the changes.

Us consumers, of course, can help out by recycling old electronics, partaking in trade-in schemes, holding off on phone upgrades for another year and by passing old devices onto friends, relatives, charities or selling them on secondhand.

Of the 82% who said they were not considering recycling their old devices, 37% claimed that they held out due to concerns about personal data and security. Though 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 how to securely back up and wipe your phone or laptop.

29% said that they just don’t know where to go to recycle old tech.

How to recycle electronics

So, if you’re looking to finally part ways with that old iPhone 4 (do you really need a backup backup phone?) and maybe earn a little cash along the way, here’s what you can do:

Many electronics stores are happy to collect your old handsets to be recycled. Currys PC World offers free recycling in-store for any electronic device, regardless of whether or not that device was originally purchased from them. It is also happy to remove any small devices from your home for nothing during a delivery and can pick up bigger devices, like kitchen appliances and widescreen TVs, for around £15.

Argos will, similarly, recycle any large appliance for £14.99 if its driver is already out for a delivery, while Apple accepts old devices to be recycled for free and, in some cases, you can earn a bit of credit.

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Carphone Warehouse is happy to recycle any old phones it receives in store and, as an added bonus , it will donate £10 to charity for every handset it receives, including £5 to youth helpline Get Connected.

Many major mobile networks also offer trade-in schemes and free recycling in store. O2 and Three both have zero landfill policies, promising that your device will be responsibly reused, refurbished or recycled in exchange for a bit of cash. EE also has a trade-in system, as do many online phone recycling services such as Mazuma Mobile.

Even if the full device cannot be recycled, it is important to responsibly recycle batteries, as these often contain heavy metals and pollutant chemicals. A huge number of retailers offer battery collection services, including many supermarkets and DIY stores.

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

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