How to recycle your old mobile phone

Recycling your mobile icon

The average person gets a new mobile phone every 18 months - so what happens to their old one? Well, a lot of them get recycled. Not only is it good for the environment, recycling your mobile phone can get you a nice cash sum. Here’s everything you need to know.

Where to recycle your old mobile

There are tons of phone recycling companies out there. There are dedicated electronics recyclers, mobile networks, phone sellers, and more. We recommend comparing all your options using a site like or to make sure you find the best possible deal.

What happens when a mobile is recycled

First, the phone's IMEI number - a code that identifies the phone - is checked, just to make sure it isn't lost or stolen. Then, it spends a little time in a factory that deals with recycling electronics.

The majority of phones are actually refurbished: their parts are all checked over, fixed, and given a spring clean (or totally replaced), before the newly refreshed phone is sold on. Some stay in the UK and get sold on as refurb phones, or given out as replacements for people who've lost or broken theirs. Most, however, are sold in 'emerging markets'. Your old phone could find a new owner in Russia, Asia, Africa, or Latin America.

If a phone is beyond repair or too old to be sold on, on the other hand, its parts are all extracted and separated out. Some components go straight into other phones, and others are piled together and melted down. Phones contain lots of plastic, and tiny bits of metals like platinum, gold, silver, copper, nickel, and cadmium - all of which can be recycled. Perhaps your phone's circuit board will come back from the grave as a kitchen appliance or a nice bit of jewellery.

A stack of smartphones

How much is my phone worth?

That depends on the phone, how much you get for your old phone can vary based on the resale value, the demand for a specific handset and how old the handset is. This means that you can sell an 2 year old iPhone for a lot more than a 10 year old Motorola. 

At time of writing, an iPhone 8 can get you £215 on, while an older iPhone 6 can sell on for around £85. Even much older mobiles can rake in a little bit - the old Motorola Moto G that I've got hanging around at home can bag me a fiver, it turns out.

You'll get less for a broken phone, though - the models that rake in the most cash work well, are recent models, and, preferably, are unlocked.

Should I sell my phone, or recycle it?

In terms of how much money you'll make, it doesn't really make a huge difference whether you sell your mobile (e.g. through eBay) or send it off for recycling. In fact, a lot of companies that give you money for your old phone do a little bit of both.

Whatever you do, definitely don't just chuck your old phone in the bin, regardless of how old and useless it is. It's far better for the environment to pass it on - phones can leak quite a bit of toxic waste, along with chemicals that can damage wildlife - plus you can make a little cash.

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