Getting Rid of Old Phones: Proper Disposal, Resale, and Recycling

by Editorial, on 2.5.2022

When you replace your old phone with a newer model, you can do one of a few things: throw the old one in the bin, sell it on for a small profit, or dispose of the phone safely and correctly. We don’t recommend the first one! Instead, we’re here to take you through the best options for selling or recycling your old devices, whether you’re an individual or a business device manager.

old phones proper disposal

Why is it important to dispose of old mobile phones correctly?

While selling your old phone to reclaim some of the cost of a new device may be preferable, it is not always possible. Perhaps your device is damaged, faulty, or is now too old to support new software updates. In this instance, throwing it away might seem like the only option. But you must do so safely.

There are two main reasons to dispose of old phones and devices properly when they’re reached the end of their lifecycle. The first is data security, as we will explore in more detail in a moment. The second is sustainability.

Disposal of company phones

Individuals may replace their devices every few years, as they see fit; but businesses will need a more consistent turnover of devices, and will encounter faulty devices far more often just by nature of the scale of their operation. When a device must be replaced due to its age or a fault, it cannot simply be sent to landfill. This is for a few different reasons:

  • Acid from the phone battery leaks into the ground
  • Lead, beryllium and other chemicals poison water systems, which affects wildlife and ecosystems for miles around
  • Valuable metals such as gold, silver, aluminium as well as Rare Earths could be retrieved and reused
  • Plastic casing takes thousands of years to break down
  • The phone is still valuable if sold on or recycled

Instead, a sustainable option is needed in every case. The materials that may damage ecosystems as they degrade are also valuable and can be recycled into new devices. In many cases, particularly with iOS devices, the discarded hardware can also be used to support up-to-date software. These devices can be wiped and refurbished and will provide many more years of service before they, too, need to be recycled.

So, recycling is the best option for phone disposal. But deciding to recycle your old phone is only the beginning.

What does sustainability actually mean for smart devices? Our white paper  presents facts and figures on the production and usage of smartphones and  tablets worldwide. Click for the free PDF download. 

Data security risks when disposing of old devices

We are all aware of how much of our data is carried around in our mobile phones. Personal conversations, memories, passwords, banking details, and more. Giving someone else unauthorised access to this information inadvertently is a scary thought. 

For businesses, this risk is multiplied with every device that an employee uses to access company data (find out more about private use of company devices here). Whether you are an individual or a manager of an entire fleet of company devices, knowing and mitigating the risks to data security when selling on or disposing of old devices is critical. 

To minimise the risks to your personal or business data security, make sure you to follow these simple tips:

  • Save or change all passwords you may have used on the device
  • Download all device data onto a separate device, an SD card, or use a smartphone manager
  • Remove SIM and microSD card(s)
  • Remote wipe the device if you are using Mobile Device Management (MDM) software
  • Reset the device to factory settings

At everphone, we offer certified data deletion as part of our device rental service. So, every time a device is removed from circulation, we’ll make sure we wipe it correctly before refurbishing or recycling it.

Want to learn more? Click here for a free consultancy with one of our experts.

How to sell your old phone

If your old phone is in good condition, still functions properly, and is not out-of-date, it will be possible to sell it. You can either sell directly to an individual who plans to use the phone themselves, or sell it to a specialist phone recycling company. 

Many phone users will look for second-hand options when buying a new device as it saves them money on the device itself, and they only have to pay for a monthly SIM contract. The best places to sell to individuals are eBay and Facebook Marketplace; or, simply sell to someone you know. 

Phone recycling companies will be able to offer you a smaller settlement for your device, but the sale is guaranteed and fast. You won’t have to wait for someone to enquire about the device, you simply set the transaction up online and post your device. WeBuyAnyPhone, Envirofone, and Mazuma Mobile are popular options. 

Alternatively, sell your device back to a technology shop in your area. The shop can then sell the device themselves for a small margin. This might provide you with a greater profit, and also supports small businesses in your area.

At everphone, we offer a similar option for businesses of any size: we will buy your old company devices off you before you start a device rental plan with us. Getting this money back will help subsidise the rental costs. However, the key benefit here is that you will never have to worry about disposing of devices again. Your rental plan will include refurbishing and/or recycling any devices that are faulty or are no longer needed by you. 

To find out more about everphone’s Phone-as-a-Service rental programme, get in touch with one of our specialists: Want to learn more? Click here for a free consultancy with one of our experts.

How much are old mobiles worth?

The answer to this question is a complicated one. Your old phone’s value will depend on its age, its condition, and where you choose to sell it.

The age of the device may not always work against you. ‘Vintage’ phones, such as the iconic Nokia 3310, fetch a fair price when sold directly through eBay or other online auctions. But, for newer devices without ‘classic’ status, older devices will generally equate to cheaper sales. 

If you choose to sell your phone to a recycling company, you can expect to receive £40 or less, unless you are selling a brand-new device in great condition. But, if you are a business with 100 or so devices to dispose of, that quickly adds up; and, even as an individual, that money can go directly towards a contract with a new device.

Old Mobile Phone Disposal Recycling
Old smartphones recycable resources such as Rare Earths and metals

The good thing about phone recycling websites is that you can get a fairly accurate quote before you agree to sell your device; so, you’re able to work out which will be the most profitable method before making a commitment. 

However, if the profit does not outweigh the time it will take to sell your device, you might consider simply recycling it directly.

How to recycle old mobile phones

Aside from selling to a recycling company, there are a few other places that will let you recycle old devices. When making your choice, you need to weigh up the sustainability of the option. In almost every instance, you will have the opportunity to recycle your phone in a way that benefits a good cause. 

Before recycling your phone, make sure you follow the data security steps outlined above.

Where can old mobile phones be recycled?

Recycling your phone directly will often be the quick and easy option, but, with the right research, it’s possible to help causes that are important to you along the way. You can recycle your old phone at the following places:

  • Curbside recycling (check that they accept electronics)
  • Local recycling points
  • Charity shops (they can sell the device to recyclers)
  • Schools and community groups
  • The original device manufacturer (they can directly recycle the parts when building new devices)

If you are unsure of where to donate your old phone, use the following list of charities as a starting point:

  • Pro Wildlife
  • Oxfam
  • Action Aid
  • Fonebak
  • O2’s Community Calling
  • Vodafone’s Great British Tech Appeal

Company devices: the everphone phone disposal promise

Sustainability sits at the heart of the Phone-as-a-Service model that everphone offers. As the devices are only rented by you, the responsibility for proper disposal of old phones lies with us. 

When devices are returned to us, either due to faults or at the end of a rental contract, we will automatically wipe the device of all data. We then repair or refurbish the device, so it can be used again; or, failing that, we ensure that the device is recycled properly. At present, over 95% of all returned everphone devices are refurbished.

 All together, this process dramatically reduces the number of devices sent to landfill, and ensures that good quality technology is never wasted.

With everphone, your company can be eco-conscious, but without the extra effort. Sustainability is a big boost for employer branding, and means your employees can accept a company device without data or environmental concerns. 

This doesn’t just extend to the devices provided as part of our rental programme. We will buy any devices that your company is currently using, before replacing them one by one with newer models. It makes the switch-over to Phone-as-a-Service seamless, and crosses one big admin task off the list. 

Find out more about sustainably disposing of old phones with our whitepaper.

Mobile Device Sustainability Report

Topics:Mobile WorkSustainability

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