Mobile Phone Recycling: Find out which recycling site pays the most
Is your old mobile made from hidden treasure? This is a step-by-step guide to mobile phone recycling, including the mobile selling comparison tool, to help you get the most from your mobile. You could get £100s for a recent handset.
Step by step guide
How 'old mobile buying' companies work
These are specialist, super-speedy, mainly web based companies, which will take an old phone and give you cash in exchange. You go to the website, enter in your mobile model and you'll be given a quote. Accept it and you'll be sent a prepaid postage label or jiffy bag to send the phone back in.
What type of phones can be recyled?
Sadly, digging a mobile out of the wardrobe isn't a guarantee of decent cash...
Your phone needs to be in decent condition, with no more than mild cosmetic damage, the original battery, and be able to be switched on.
If your phone's only slightly under the weather, check how much you'd get for a fully working model. Often all it takes is replacing the battery, so it may be worth doing that yourself to get the decent sales value but always check the battery price first.
You don't usually need to provide the charger but most will recycle it properly for you (though you could keep it as a spare or flog it on eBay).
How do I exchange my phone?
You'll get a price and, if you accept it, you'll be sent a jiffy bag for the phone, which you can return freepost. The company won't accept responsibility for non-delivery so, depending on the value of the phone, it's worth sending it by ‘Recorded Signed-For' delivery, which insures it for up to £50 and costs from £1.10 on top of usual postage.
Send the phone charged, switched off, without the Sim or memory card and remove any security or Pin codes that'll hamper its testing. To do this, just opt for ‘reset factory settings’ on your phone’s menu. Plus don't forget to wipe any private data.
If it isn't up to scratch (usually 20% of phones are rejected) you'll be contacted and offered a reduced price, which you can accept or have the phone returned for free.
How safe are these companies?
Remember that if you've sent your phone to the company and something goes wrong, or the company goes bust before it's paid you, you've little protection.
If the company goes into administration (when an insolvency firm is called in to run the company), the administrators will keep it trading, if possible. If the company isn't able to keep trading, you'll need to apply to the administrators for a refund which can be harder. For more info, see our Administration Help guide.
Find the top payer for your phone
Prices vary widely for individual handsets, so our MobileValuer compares all the main sites (excluding those with terrible feedback) for both working and non-working phones.
Most providers will look at non-working phones, offering a reduced price for these (expect to get around 10-50% of the working price) or at the very least will re-cycle them for you.
Typical examples of mild damage include: badly dented casing or if it the phone won't turn on. Phones that are water damaged, physically broken or have unresponsive or cracked screens will probably get zero cash. Click the 'damaged' box when searching for the best quote.
Alternatively Greener Solutions (which also runs Mobile2cash) works in partnership with Tesco and offers 50 Clubcard points (worth £1.50 in Tesco Clubcard Deals vouchers - see the Boost Your Loyalty Points guide for how to maximise these) for non-working phones or donates 50p to Tesco's current nominated charity.
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Other options to cash in your phone
Phone-buying websites aren't the only option and, whilst they're relatively quick and easy, there other ways to make more cash.
Online auction sites
The most profitable way to ditch your old mobile is DIY. There's a thriving old phones market on eBay*, earning you on average 20–30% more than the best ‘phone-buyer' sites. You need to balance the extra cash with the extra hassle and there's no guarantee of a sale.
The best thing to do is go to eBay and search for a phone identical to yours and preferably in similar condition. The price should give you a rough indication of whether it’s worth considering. For more info read the eBay Selling Tricks guide.
Sell it to a friend
If you don't want to give it to a friend, selling it can be mutually beneficial, both earning you more and costing them less than doing it commercially. The difficulty is deciding on a price without ruining the friendship.
Our easy formula is, take the best price from the ‘phone-buyer' companies and add 10%. If there's a dispute, simply show them this guide, proving it's an unbiased party's assessment.
Just because the phone no longer has the package you want, it doesn't mean you need a new phone. Most phones can be legally and freely unlocked to work on any network (see the Unlock Your Mobile guide).
This also means it can be used as an alternative handset such as a texting-only-mobile with a cheap Sim, as a phone for your children or specially to use abroad (see Cheap Mobile Phones and Cheapest Roaming Mobile guides).
What about the charity option?
Many people see ‘we’ll collect your old mobile for charity deals’ and think woohoo; yet I’m not a fan. This isn’t due to a philosophical objection to giving to charity, but more because it isn’t an efficient way to do it for mid to high value phones (it's not bad for lower value ones).
These schemes work by giving the charity a cut of the cash you would’ve received; yet if you sell it, you get more than the charity does. So to maximise your donation, sell it yourself, then donate the cash to the charity;. It'll get more cash and because of the ‘Gift Aid’ scheme (see the Boost Charity Donations guide) it can reclaim your tax too, which is an extra 28%.
Trade in low value phones
If you’re trying to get a new phone, and the recycling companies aren’t willing to give you much for your old one, you could try and trade it in with the company you’re buying a new one from (this mainly applies to high street retailers).
Carphone Warehouse, for example, offers competitive prices on old phones. Check its trade in calculator to see how much you'll get. Don’t choose a phone from it on this basis but if you do fall into this category, it’s worth a look. For info on how to get the best mobile tariff read Mobile Phone Cost Cutting.
So where do they go?
Getting rid of your old phone isn’t just about de-cluttering. There are potentially noxious substances in decaying phones. It's reckoned cadmium batteries can infect the water system and lead, brominated flame retardants and beryllium could harm the environment if incorrectly disposed of. So, even if you can't sell it, don't throw your old phone out with the rubbish.
What happens to the phones?
Once they’re tested, if the phones are decent, they’re shipped abroad and flogged. For example Envirofone sells phones in the Middle and Far East, Africa and South America.
If it’s a particularly high value phone, there's a chance these companies will sell it on eBay* to get the most money. Therefore if you find your phone is high value, as noted above, you may want to consider doing that yourself and cutting out the middle man (see the eBay Selling guide).
If your phone is of a lower class then it'll be broken down and sold as component parts. And if it’s totally worthless, these companies will dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way.