The total number of mobile devices worldwide almost touches the 15 billion mark in 2021. There are estimates that this number will cross 18 billion by 2025. It’s mindblowing, right? But do you ever wonder why they’re producing so many of them? Because people switch to a newer model every 18 – 24 months. And the older ones either collect dust in drawers or get thrown in the garbage, ending up in landfills ultimately. That’s what makes mobile phone recycling so pertinent in the current day and time.
So, we’re here with a complete guide on how to get rid of your old mobile phone in a way that’s better for us and our planet. Let’s begin with:
- ♻️ Why is Mobile Phone Recycling So Important?
- 📟 What Do We Get When We Recycle Old Phones?
- 🗺️ Phone Recycling Programs in the UK
- ♼ What’s a Typical Mobile Phone Recycling Process Like?
- 🔋 What Happens With the Materials Inside the Old Mobile Phones?
- 📱 How to Prepare Your Mobile Phone for Recycling?
- 📍 Find a Place Near You That Recycles Mobile Phones
- 🎯 Conclusion
♻️ Why is Mobile Phone Recycling So Important?
To start with, mobile phone devices have immense potential to damage the environment if we fail to dispose of them appropriately. These stats below may help you better understand this fact.
- In the UK alone, the number of mobile phones needing proper disposal exceeds 85 million.
- More than 140 million mobile phones in the US end up in the landfill every year.
- You can recover about 80 to 90 per cent of materials in a mobile phone
- We’re able to recycle only about 10% of the phones every year
- A single mobile in the landfill has can potentially contaminate about 132,000 litres of water
- Lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, arsenic, and chromium are some of the toxic substances capable of polluting land, air, and water
- Though in very small amounts, mobile phones also contain precious metals like gold, silver, copper, and nickel
- An appropriate mobile phone recycling process can help extract these metals. For instance, it takes about 6,000 mobiles to extract up to 340 grams of gold, 3.5 kgs of silver, and 130 kgs of copper
📟 What Do We Get When We Recycle Old Phones?
There are many positive aspects of recycling your old mobile phones. Some important of them may include:
Reusing Precious Metals
Your phone contains some precious metals, especially the switchboard part. Throwing your old phone away means wasting those expensive metals. Let’s talk about the iPhone here, which contains bits of platinum, silver, and palladium. Many other smartphones commonly contain aluminium and copper. In fact, you can find up to 17 rare earth metals in modern-day’s smartphones. Those may include scandium, yttrium, gadolinium, lanthanum, terbium, praseodymium, lanthanides, and so forth. An appropriate mobile phone recycling process assists you in recovering and reusing these precious metals in different ways.
While we continue to reap the immense benefits of today’s fast-paced digitalisation, it also produces gadgets in enormous numbers. Most people either lose interest in many of these gadgets pretty quickly, or they simply snap after a while. Unfortunately, the majority of us fail to realise how much electronic waste (e-waste) this produces. The worst part is that it is quite harmful to the environment, even though it doesn’t pose any serious threat to us directly. A recent report by the United Nations University reveals a 21% surge in production of e-waste in the last 5 years only. It becomes even more critical because large proportions of this e-waste end up in landfills, ultimately damaging the environment. When most people start recycling their old mobile phones rather than just throwing them away, they’re contributing to lessening the environmental hazards.
Making It Possible for Others
Many people simply don’t have the flexibility to spend much on buying a new and flashy smartphone so often. When you send your old mobile phone for recycling, it is first tested for further usage. If they find everything okay, they label it as a refurbished phone and pass it on for resale. Since these phones are already used, they’re sold at a far lower price than the original market price. It means lesser privileged people can also get access to modern technology cheaply, making the most of it without breaking the bank. Secondly, you can also get some money from reselling your phone if it’s functioning right.
Producing New Job Opportunities
This can also be another great answer to a question like why recycle mobile phones. According to a recent survey, recycling programs contribute really well to introduce new job opportunities in the market. The stats reveal that the processing of every 1,000 tons of recycled materials leads to the creation of more than 750,000 jobs every year. In 2016 alone, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 jobs were created, producing about $1 billion in total. That’s why we also see a boom in eRecycling startups, which means the production of new jobs related to this field will also continue to improve.
Where to Recycle Your Old Mobile Phones?
It’s good to see that more and more places are accepting your old mobile phones for recycling. From charities to retail stores and dedicated services, we list down some of the most popular options for you.
Apple Store Trade-In
Apple users are in luck with this one. Your local Apple store allows you to trade in your used Apple device for a newer one through their Apple Renew program. However, this doesn’t involve any cash reimbursements. You either get store credit for your new Apple gadget or an Apple Store Gift Card. From a new Apple device to an app or even some music or movies on iTunes, you can cash in your gift card.
Your Network Store Trade-In
You can also avail of the trade-in programs of your own network’s local store for store credit or discount on your bill. While you can drop by the store, most of them also respond to you on calls, catering to any queries you may have. On the one hand, you get a chance to upgrade your mobile without spending a lot of cash on it, and on the other hand, you’re contributing to minimising e-waste. So, it’s a win-win situation for you in the end.
🗺️ Phone Recycling Programs in the UK
Let’s have a look at some of the UK’s top networks offering trade-ins and buy-back programs to help you dispose of your old phones in a better way.
O2 Recycle: O2 refers to their recycling program as O2 Recycle. It is quite similar to third-party recycling schemes, which rely on an online checker to help you assess what’s your old phone worth. If you strike a deal with them to process your handset, you may even get same-day payment. According to O2, any profits they earn on this go into their “Think Big” initiative. It aims at improving the lives of young people.
EE’s Recycle and Reward Scheme: EE also offers a similar scheme, which enjoys quite a reputation in the market. It allows you to choose between a bank transfer or a cheque. In fact, as an umbrella brand, EE’s Recycle and Reward scheme allows trade-ins on mobile phones associated with their partner networks as well.
Vodafone’s Buyback Program: Vodafone offers you swapping your old mobile handsets for cash or Debenhams/Argos vouchers. Again, this Buy-back will give you get same-day payment option and accepts phones on all associated networks.
Three’s Recycling Plan: Three’s phone recycling program recycles old mobile phones free of charge. However, it does so without offering you a cashback scheme. They test the device for its functionality. And if it’s all fine, they send it for people in developing countries, helping them as well as the environmental cause.
Electronics Outlets: Nowadays, you have a handful of electronic outlets. From local stores to bigger chains like CeX, you can find a viable recycling program for your mobiles in many places. Since the terms may vary from company to company, it’s better to clear any ambiguities about what you’re getting into by asking the right questions.
Local Government Recycling Initiatives
With an ever-increasing number of electronic devices (that come in different sizes and shapes), most local governments are concerned about their appropriate disposal. To keep e-waste from getting into landfills, they offer specialised e-waste programs nowadays. Most of them are free or low-cost, encouraging people to minimise e-waste rather than dumping their old mobile phones in their drawers or the landfills.
♼ What’s a Typical Mobile Phone Recycling Process Like?
It usually comprises of the following steps:
- You drop off your old handset or post it back for recycling, after which they’re transported to recycling facilities
- They undergo thorough checks for functionality. The functional ones are labelled as “refurbished” and sent for reuse in different places.
- The rest are disassembled into various components, such as chips, circuit boards, batteries, screens, casings, accessories, and other packaging materials.
- Heating, crushing, shredding, smelting, and various other techniques are used to separate different components of the devices, optimising the recovery of resources.
🔋 What Happens With the Materials Inside the Old Mobile Phones?
There are many components in a modern-day mobile phone, with each of them getting different treatment in the recycling program.
Aluminium: It is one of the most recyclable materials, primarily used in casing and various other components of modern mobile phones. Usually, a furnace is used to melt it, and the liquid aluminium is poured into different moulds, creating new aluminium products.
Lithium Batteries: Along with steel, you get a mixed metal compound after processing them. It comprises nickel, graphene, lithium, and cobalt. It is mainly used to produce new batteries.
Valuable Metals: Mobile phone circuit boards use different valuable metals in small quantities. These include gold, silver, platinum, copper, and palladium. Recycling allows extracting and reusing them, making sure they don’t go to waste.
Glass: Touch screens of new mobile phones are mostly glass-based. They separate it by crushing and melting, using it to make new glass products. It is also used as a replacement material in a road base.
Plastic: Plastic is a common component of mobile phone casing and a host of other accessories. Once recycled, it is processed into pallets, getting it ready to create new plastic products. Making new plastic requires significantly higher amounts of energy as compared to recycled plastic.
Paper and Cardboard: Mobile phone packaging relies a lot on these. You can recycle these to produce new paper and packaging, saving energy, water, and landfills.
📱 How to Prepare Your Mobile Phone for Recycling?
If you’re wondering how to recycle mobile phones, you can do so by:
Removing Your SIM Card: Phone numbers, addresses, and different types of personal information are stored in your phone SIM card. And you don’t want to lose it or let it get into the wrong hands. So, you should take it out before disposing of your phone to recycle. However, if you want to get rid of it, make sure you cut it through first.
Removing Your Memory Card: Many people rely on Micro SD cards to store photos and various other media types. You should remove your memory card before sending it out to recycle, making sure your memories remain with you for a long time. Moreover, you can also use them with other devices like digital cameras.
Performing a Factory Reset: You may be thinking, why is it necessary before you go for a phone recycling. Well, your mobile phone loads up with a lot of your personal information over time. This includes everything from email passwords to social media accounts’ credentials. Similarly, you still may have your personal history in the web browser of the phone. Data privacy is a very serious thing these days. Factory reset is the best way out to make sure all such critical information is gone before you pass your phone on for recycling.
Removing Your PIN Code: It is common to set up a pin code on your mobile phone to protect it. If you’ve also set up one, make sure to remove it before handing your phone out so that the person receiving it can use it without a problem.
📍 Find a Place Near You That Recycles Mobile Phones
The number of startups and businesses dedicated to helping you recycle old phones has undergone a dramatic rise in recent years. One of the best ways to get to one of them is to run an online search for mobile phone recycling outlets in your area. You’ll come up with many convenient options. Some top choices include:
Mobile phones have become an essential part of the contemporary lifestyle, but you can’t continue using the same one for life. Changing them over time is inevitable, but what’s important is that you get rid of the older ones in the right way. Dispose of them in a way that counters e-waste, saving the environment from further damage. And this blog is all about how you do so most conveniently and efficiently. So, best luck in making the most of it for your mobile phone recycling endeavours.