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Recycling your old mobile phone

It’s time to upgrade or treat yourself to a new smartphone, but what are you going to do with your old phone? Don’t throw it into a drawer never to be seen again - recycle, reuse or sell it instead.  

It’s time to upgrade or treat yourself to a new smartphone, but what are you going to do with your old phone? Don’t throw it into a drawer never to be seen again - recycle, reuse or sell it instead.  

Written by
Matthew Brewer
Broadband and mobile expert
26 APRIL 2021
4 min read
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How does mobile phone recycling work? 

It doesn’t take long nowadays for your mobile, the one that seemed so fancy and shiny when you bought it, to seem so embarrassingly outdated. But just because it’s fallen out of your favour – replaced in your heart by a newer, smarter model – that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. 
 Lots of companies out there will buy your old mobile for cash. It’s not just mobile phones – you can recycle other devices like tablets too. That way you can earn a little extra money towards that new iPhone or Android, and your old phone can move on to someone who really appreciates it (or at least stay out of landfill). 
When the company receives your old mobile phone, they may get it refurbished, sell it on to be reused, or they’ll strip the mobile for handy components and useful parts. 

How can you recycle your mobile phone for cash? 

With plenty of online businesses offering cash for your old mobile phone, the trickiest part of the process is choosing who you’re going to sell it to. We recommend doing some legwork to compare prices on several different sites, to make sure you’re getting the best deal.  
Whoever you choose to go with, the process is more or less the same: 

  1. To get a quote you’ll need to enter the make and model of the phone you want to sell and confirm what condition it’s in.  

2. You’ll get a quote based on your answers. You can shop around to see if it’s a good deal or not. 

3. If you decide to accept the quote, you’ll usually be sent either a prepaid padded envelope or a prepaid postage label you can use to send the phone over to the company.     

4. Your phone is a treasure trove of personal information so before you send it, make sure you transfer all your data onto your new phone and wipe all personal data from your old phone.  

5. Remove any security measures like PINs and passwords from your old phone so the company can test it. The easiest way to do this is to default to factory settings (usually found in your phone’s settings). 

6. Before you send the phone away, remove the SIM card and memory card if you have one. Fully charge the phone then turn it off.  

7. When it’s ready to go, package it up and take it to your nearest post office or parcel drop-off point. 

8. When the company receives the phone, they’ll check its condition. If they’re happy it matches  their quote for it, they’ll pay you, normally by direct debit, although you can usually request a cheque if you’d prefer. 

9. If they’re not happy with the condition, they might offer you a reduced quote. You can either accept it and they’ll complete the payment, or you can ask them to return the phone to you. In this case they may ask you to pay  the return postage.   

Are there any risks to selling my old mobile phone for cash?

There are lots of companies out there, so to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable firm, it’s a good idea to read some reviews and see what other customers think. Make sure you have a way to  contact the company if something goes wrong. Check for contact details on their website and see if they have a complaints process in place.  
It’s worth looking at the transportation details too. Some companies don’t include insurance on the shipping, so if the phone goes missing in transit, you’ll lose it. If the phone is valuable, you could consider sending it by recorded delivery so you have some insurance included, although this would be out of your own pocket.  

How much can I get for my old mobile? 

It depends on the make and model of your phone and how old it is. More popular makes, like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, are likely to net you more. But even then, it depends on the particular model, with the newest models likely to be the most valuable.   
The condition of your phone is also a big factor. Most companies need the phone to be working properly, and in a reasonable condition, with only minor cosmetic damage. If it still looks brand new, you’re going to get a higher valuation than if it’s scuffed, or occasionally shuts down for no reason.  
You don’t need the original packaging and accessories, like chargers, to sell the phone, but you could get extra if you do. And you’ll likely find that your phone is worth more if it’s unlocked.  

What if my phone is damaged? 

If your phone is only slightly damaged – scratched or dented – you should still be able to sell it, but at a reduced price. Most companies have a price for phones in good condition and those in bad condition.  
If your phone has a cracked or broken screen, or it’s water damaged, you probably won’t be able to sell it, but you can still recycle it and do your bit for the environment.  

How can I find the best price for my old mobile?

To find the best price for your mobile you’ll need to shop around and compare your options. But there are so many companies out there offering cash for old mobiles that it’s hard to know where to start.  
The quickest, easiest way to see what different companies are offering is to use a mobile recycle price comparison website like Sell My Mobile, Compare and Recycle, or Compare My Mobile.  

What happens to my phone after I sell it? 

When they receive your old, pre-loved phone, the company will test it and see how well it’s working. Depending on its condition, they’ll either try to sell it in the UK as a refurbished phone, or in emerging markets abroad. If they decide it’s not worth selling, they’ll break it down and sell it for parts, or dispose of it in an environmentally responsible way.  

How else can I recycle my phone? 

If you don’t want to sell your phone with one of the companies specialising in exchanging cash for old phones, you have several other options: 

  • Sell it to a friend, or pass it on for free to someone in your community on sites like The Freecycle Network.
  • Sell it on Ebay, Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree – you never know, your old Nokia might just be a collector’s item. 
  • Trade it in with your provider. Some networks offer trade-in bonuses for your old phone, but make sure the trade-in value beats the cash you could get for selling it.  
  • Keep it as a spare phone in case you break your fancy new one.
  • Donate it to charity - ask at your local charity shop about donating small electrical goods.  

Whatever you do, don’t just throw it in the bin. There are harmful substances inside mobile phones that can damage the environment. If you can’t sell it, recycle it.  
Check with your local council about their small electricals recycling service or visit your local recycling centre.  

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