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How to recycle your old mobile phone or tablet

If you’re planning on upgrading your phone or tablet this Christmas then chances are your old device will end up slung in a drawer. You’ve got a few options to get rid of the thing, such as selling or trading in, but if your device is older or a bit knackered, you should give some serious thought to recycling it.

Why should I recycle my old phone or tablet?

There are a bunch of reasons why it’s more environmentally sound to recycle your old phone or tablet.

For starters, they’re full of potentially harmful materials that need to be disposed of safely and responsibly. Then there’s the fact that they contain some rare material which are hard to come by and in some cases controversially mined. A prime example being cassiterite, an ingredient in smartphones which is now considered a ‘conflict mineral’ as the deposits are located at the heart of fighting and illegal trade and export, in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And then obviously there’s the warm, glowing feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing that your old mobile will be put to good use rather than lingering amongst the fluff at the bottom of your sock drawer.

So how do I recycle my old phone or tablet?

First things first. Dig out your old devices and take a look at them. Don’t panic if they’re a little bit bruised and battered, that’s par for the course with handsets and tablets that live their lives in our pockets and bags every day, but what condition a device is in is an important factor. Broken screens, for example, will have a detrimental effect on the price you get (obviously). Make sure they still switch on too.

Once you know what you’ve got, then it’s time to start exploring your options.

Perhaps the easiest way to go about the process is to hit up a comparison site, like Compare and Recycle or Sell My Mobile, input your phone or tablet’s details, and then click on the vendor who offers the best price. Of course, you’ll want to read reviews first, because you’re going to be sending something potentially valuable off in the post and you want to be sure you’re actually going to get your money afterwards – and the amount they actually quoted.

If you don’t fancy taking the comparison site approach, then do some manual searching. There’s a chance that you’ll find a better deal if you take your time because, as we’ve seen with some insurers, not everyone wants to pay to be included on comparison sites.

If you’re not worried about recouping a few quid for your old portable pal, you could go the altruistic route and recycle your hardware with a charity instead. Rethink and Oxfam both gratefully accept donations, as do Friends of the Earth and the British Heart Foundation, and a fair few more to boot. So if you’d like to donate your device and do some good, check out one of these companies or another which supports a cause you’d like to champion.

As with all charitable donations, you should check that you’re supporting a registered charity before you send anything off though. There are some unscrupulous people about, although they’re very much in the minority.

Once you’ve found the company with whom you’d like to recycle your device, you’ll have to register, give some personal information to ensure that you’re legit, and choose the method with which you’d like to receive payment.

The easiest method of payment is BACS transfer direct into your bank account. Some recyclers have deals with big stores or companies and may offer you a higher price if you choose to take your payment in gift vouchers – so if you’re looking to buy a replacement, it might be something worth considering.

Once you’ve done all that, you’ll be sent a pre-paid envelope (or box, if you’re recycling more than one). Be sure to take a few photos of the device(s) you’re sending. The last thing you want is the company telling you that your hardware’s in worse condition than you said and trying to stiff you on the price. Snapping a few images will also give you a leg to stand on in the unlikely event of damage taking place in the post.

Next, you should take out any memory cards you might have slotted in and then fully wipe your personal info from the phone (go to settings, and then reset). After all, you wouldn’t want a company receiving your phone as well as few choice snapshots of you in your kecks on holiday, would you?

With that all done, chuck the device in the envelope or box. Don’t send chargers unless the company explicitly asks for them.

Then it’s just a matter of taking the package to the Post Office and sending it on its merry way and waiting for your cash (or feeling of good will toward humankind) to materialise.


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