How to Recycle Your Mobile Phone

Before you upgrade to the next great cell phone, recycle your old one by following these tips from guest author Craig Timmins. 

Craig Timmins
3-minute read


With the constant introduction of new mobile phones, changes to operating systems, and better applications to the market, keeping up with the latest in tech can be tough. Many people embrace the rapid cycle of chucking their “old” devices and upgrading to gizmos with bigger screens, faster connections, and cooler features, but that frequent gadget replacement often comes with a steep environmental cost.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of mobile telephones become redundant, and instead of being recycled, end up in landfills. Many of those phones, the majority of which are still perfectly usable or at least have parts that can be reused, contain toxic components that eventually leach into the ground and pollute the groundwater and surrounding environment. By recycling mobile phones instead of throwing them away, we can both reuse certain parts and save the environment from ruin.

What Happens If I Throw My Phone Away?

In 2004, the Basel Convention (a global entity that regulates the way hazardous wastes are disposed of) partnered with the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative in an effort to further public awareness of the toxicity of some mobile phone components.  A single mobile phone wasting away in a landfill may not seem like much a problem, but in the US alone, 130 million mobile phones were discarded in 2005. That amounts to over 65,000 tons of toxic waste, and that was five years ago. What would the figure be now?

If you throw away your phone instead of recycling it, the unit eventually travels to a landfill site, where it becomes buried. Over time, toxic chemicals leach into the ground and find their way back to us. In the worst case scenario, the chemicals are released into the air, soil, and water, thus contaminating the food and drink that we and our children consume.

How to Pick the Right Recycler

Recycling an old mobile phone is easy. All you have to do is pick the recycler, which you can do with a simple online search of “mobile phone recycling.” Several companies offer cash for even the oldest and most damaged of mobiles. When you’re looking for a recycler, try using a comparison site like sellmymobile.com, which will provide you with a list of the most up-to-date offers from reputable recyclers. After you sign up with your company of choice, the selected recycler will handle the process of sending you a pre-paid shipping envelope and compensating you for the used phone via check, PayPal, or discount voucher.

Important Things to Remember

The key to getting the best price for your phone is to ensure that it is in the best condition possible. Damage reduces the offer price, as does an inaccessible locked handset or a dead battery. So here are a few tips to help you get the best offer for your used phone:

  • Make sure your handset is clean and in good working condition

  • Check that your phone has the original battery and turns on and off.

  • Send the phone with the battery fully charged, but turned off.

  • Remember to take out the SIM card.

  • Wipe all personal data from the memory and remove any security settings or pin codes. The easiest way to do this is to set the mobile back to original factory settings.

  • Chargers can often be recycled too, so if you don’t need it, send it along with the phone.

Aside from helping to cut down on environmental waste and pollution, recycling your phone is an easy source of extra income. So before you toss your iPhone 5 and upgrade to the next iPhone5S (or whatever’s coming out next), try recycling it instead—it might even make your next gadget more affordable.  

Image courtesy of from Shutterstock