How can I recycle my smartphone in the UK?

Recycling smartphones in the UK
Look familiar? It's time to recycle your old handsets

Most of us have enough old smartphones around the house to start a small museum. “Exhibit one: the indestructible Nokia 3310 that enabled my all-consuming Snake addiction.” “Exhibit two: the scratched iPhone 4 that enabled my all-consuming Fruit Ninja addiction.” And so on.

However, there are ways to safely rid yourself of cherished handsets and feel smug in the process. Here’s how to recycle smartphones in the UK.

Resell or recycle?

Let’s clear something up straight away: when most online services say they’ll “recycle” your old phone, they actually mean they’ll resell it. We’ve all seen adverts along the lines of “get cash for your old mobile” and there are now dozens of companies that effectively offer exactly the same service. Getting £7 for your unlocked, unloved iPhone 4 is far better than just slinging it in the bin, right?

Absolutely. Most resale websites will try their utmost to reuse your smartphone, but, if it’s beyond repair, they’ll also recycle it (in the traditional sense of breaking down the handset and stripping it of recyclable materials).

Our pick of the resale services is the aptly named Envirophone, which is based in Cheshire. Not only does the firm accept damaged devices, offer free postage and send out payments quickly, it also endeavours to sell old mobiles in developing countries. Best of all, if your Nokia’s knackered, it will send it off to an official recycling plant, where the “valuable materials will be extracted”.

Recycle smartphones in the UKCut out the middleman

However, perhaps the best option is to cut out the middleman altogether and recycle the smartphone yourself. Granted, you won’t get any money for it, but the amounts resale sites offer are usually negligible. Plus, you can bask in the glory of helping the environment.

To find the closest recycling centre that can take mobile phones, use Recycle Now’s “Local recycling” tool. Recycle Now is a national government campaign that covers over 90% of local authorities in England, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to bin your BlackBerry.

Recycle smartphones in the UKTo begin, click the “Recycle a specific item” box and then select the “Mobile phones” tickbox from the list of items that appears. Click Continue and enter your postcode or location.

Once that’s done, you’ll be given a list of local recycling centres. And there are a surprisingly large number. Within a 12-mile radius of my home in Tunbridge Wells, there are eight places to recycle mobile phones. Consequently, there’s really no excuse not to dispose of your phone in an environmentally friendly way.

How can I recycle my smartphone in the UK?Which components can be recycled?

An old smartphone offers much of value. For example, recyclers can granulate, melt and reshape plastic casings to use in industrial moulds. Moreover, manufacturers can reuse aerials, battery connectors, printed circuit boards, keyboards, LCD screens, lenses, microphones and speakers.

Most smartphones also contain precious and semiprecious metals that can be extracted and recycled. Indeed, all the medals in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will use metal obtained from old mobile phone parts. Overall, they’ll need a whopping two tonnes of precious metals for the 5,000 medals, which is a lot of Motorola Flipouts.

Image courtesy of Adrian Clark via Flickr

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Max Figgett

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