How to sell your old mobile for cash

27th Jul 2010 | 15:20

How to sell your old mobile for cash

Recycling is green - and you can earn money or vouchers too

Recycling your mobile: Why recycle?

Most people will have seen the plethora of adverts around telling you how easy it is to turn your unwanted mobile phone into cash.

There are around 90 million phones sitting unused in Britain alone, worth a staggering £450 million.

But the thing about an old mobile phone is that you got rid of it for a reason, meaning it's probably a few years old and most people will assume not worth much – no matter how easy it is to send off a phone for recycling, it's not worth the hassle for a couple of quid.

Interestingly there's more to getting rid of your own mobile than just turning into enough for half a pint; not only are more phones holding their value, but most people don't know that you can exchange an old phone for a better new one, get shopping vouchers or air miles for the next trip abroad.

And if none of that appeals, then there's the environmental aspect: it's not the same as putting a few newspapers in a bin when recycling a mobile.

Most handsets contain a large number of harmful materials that will seep into the ground if left in a landfill – so perhaps you should stop and think before chucking you old phone into a drawer when you pick up that shiny new iPhone.

Why recycle?

When you send a mobile phone off for recycling, there are two things that happen to it: either it gets broken down for important materials, or if it's still in good enough condition, cleaned up and sent away, generally to people in developing nations, for re-use.

The average mobile phone contains a huge amount of different metals that can all be recycled: gold, silver, copper, aluminium and lead are all used for various functions within a handset, and it's a possible to extract and re-use these elements.

When you think that in the US alone 125 million mobile phones are thrown away each year, not only is that a lot of gold and silver going to waste, but it's also a hefty amount of landfill too: 65,000 tonnes, in fact.

However Keir McConomy, MD of SellMyMobile.com points out that although there are valuable materials inside, stripping them is fairly rare.

The majority of recycled phones sold online will be repaired and refurbished, either as replacement phones for insurance companies here in the UK or for sale in developing regions such as India, China and Africa.

About 5 per cent of all phones that are sent in are what's known as beyond economic repair (BER). These devices will be sent off and broken down for the precious materials inside, a process known as 'urban mining'.

As well as small quantities of metals such as platinum, gold, silver and copper, mobile batteries contain nickel which can be combined into stainless steel for saucepans, and plastics can be melted down to be made into sheeting or traffic cones.

This is a costly process however, and needs to be carried out by specialist recyclers who run to very strict environmental guidelines, hence why it is less common than simply refurbishing and reselling handsets."

You can also recycle things like old headphones and USB leads that come with your phone – while you won't get cash for these, check with your local council to locate drop-off bins and collection centres where you can get these put to good use and be environmentally conscious.

So it makes a lot of sense to recycle your handset – whether it's putting it in a recycling bin at the local supermarket or seeing what rewards you can get online, you'll either be helping others stay connected where they previously might not have been able to, or at the very least helping keep Mother Nature a bit healthier.

Free and easy

If you've heard about the benefits of recycling your mobile phone, but never had a look at the process, then we've got some good news for you: it's pretty darn simple indeed.

Most outlets offer a freepost service for your phone – simply sign up, state which phone you have and you'll be offered a quote on your handset depending on the condition, age and brand.

If this offer is good enough for you, then it's a simple case of accepting and waiting for a freepost envelope to land on your doormat.

Put your old phone in there, chuck it in a letter box and wait around a week – if the phone is the same as you stated on the website you'll either receive a cheque or, in many instances, have the money transferred to your bank instead.

Old phone still equal cash

While you might think that while today's mobile phones are all-singing and all-dancing, you've probably been stuck with the same phone for the last 18-24 months, meaning it's probably not worth much anymore, right?

You'd be wrong, as even the most basic of mobile handsets will still be worth a few quid despite the age. For instance, the Samsung Tocco F480 has been one of the most popular budget phones since its release in August 2008, but many will be thinking of upgrading it to a snazzier handset by now.

Mobilecashmonster.com will offer you £25 for the handset, send you a postage bag and offer you a range of ways to get your cash too. Even if it's non-working, you can still get up to £22, which isn't bad for a broken phone that you probably got for free on contract.

Or perhaps you were a little more tech-savvy two years ago and picked up the iPhone 3G when it was released – money4urMobile.com will still give you £185 for the device – in fact, even if you've got the first iPhone from three years ago, you can get £90 from the same firm.

McConomy of SellMyMobile.com, commented on the popularity of phones that go on to hold their value when it comes to recycling: "Nokia dominates the most popular recycled mobile phones in the UK, but that is in no small part due to the fact that they remain the most popular manufacturer.

"In particular, the Nokia N95 is a phone which, despite being a good few years old, can still fetch up to £110 through some sites. That's the most popular phone we sell through SellMyMobile.com, closely followed by the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, the N96 and the iPhone 3G 8 GB model, which between the three of them could make you around £370 if you were to sell them online.

"Smartphones such as the iPhone will also hold their value for a longer period of time. Manufacturers that don't offer the same smartphone devices will tend to see their devices depreciate in value much quicker. In short, it's less about the brand you buy, but more about the features a phone boasts and the mass market popularity of that handset."

Recycling your mobile: What if it's broken

Smashed and bashed but still worth cash

We've all done the same thing at some point in our lives: dropped a mobile phone in the toilet, watched it slip from our pocket onto the floor or heard it crack as we've sat on it: basically, rendering it useless through our stupidity.

But that's shouldn't mean you can't recycle it because like we mentioned above, many companies will simply strip it down for the important materials inside anyway.

So even if your phone is labelled as 'non-working' (such as a broken / bleeding LCD screen, no power up, speaker / microphone faults, broken aerial, etc) then in most cases you'll still get up to 90% of the cash on offer for a fully functioning mobile, meaning it's worth keeping those broken devices.

More rewarding with rewards

Unsurprisingly, most people don't want to just give away their mobile phone out of the goodness of their heart, as a survey from ABI Research showed that only 1.5% of all those that recycled mobile phones have not received any kind of reward.

But the good news is mobile phone recycling is on the increase, with only eight per cent of the population having recycled their handset in 2008, according to Nokia, now up to around a third of the population.

"We have noticed that [rewards] increase the chance of people bringing back their mobile," said Saara Tahvanainen, communications manager for sustainability at Nokia. The Finnish firm has been working hard to get more people to trade in their mobile, with schemes like cash back offers or planting a tree for every mobile phone recycled.

"Even if the incentive is that we give money to charities interest increases," added Tahvanainen.

Retailers are getting in on the act too; for instance Orange has set up a 'Reward and Recycle' buy-back scheme for the public to make sure recycling is high on the agenda.

The premise is simple – go into an Orange shop, give them your old handset, and after it's examined and checked out, you'll receive money for your handset. For instance, an old Sony Ericsson C905 might be a little chunky these days, but you can still get around £70 for trading it in – and Orange will let your recycle old laptops and MP3 players too.

However, it's not just doing this out of the kindness of its heart: retailers have to adhere to Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations, put in place to make sure it's easy for consumers to recycle their old electrical goods.

Under this directive retailers and manufacturers have to offer a service for their customers to be able to easily take back their products for recycling (or at least be able to direct them to their nearest designated collection facility).

While there's no obligation for you as a consumer to do so, this directive has come into place to stop the thousands and thousands of tonnes of electrical landfill that's being thrown away every year in the UK.

Where to get the most cash

So you've rooted around in the cupboards, loft and drawers of your house and found a number of phones from years gone by you want to get rid of, but where can you get the best deal?

Well, you've got two options: either go through a phone recycling scheme, or sell the thing yourself, generally using an auction site like eBay.

Taking one of the most recycled phones around, the Nokia N95 8GB (despite being three years old), the results vary quite wildly. Over on eBay, there are models going for £150, although these are in quite good condition. However, some sellers are listing faulty units for around £65 too.

To find the best deal on mobile phone recycling sites takes a while, as you have to go through each one carefully to select the right model. Thankfully, there are options to compare all the sites at once, with options like sellmymobile.com presenting the results from 21 other sites to offer you the best deal.

However, even the best deal here will only net you £110, meaning if your phone is still in good working order it's probably best to try selling it online – although you will have to have the box and all the accessories, whereas mobile recycling sites mostly only require the charger and phone itself.

If you've got a broken phone, it's better news though: you can get up to £90 for a broken N95 8GB, much better than that available on eBay.

Vouching for vouchers

But perhaps cash isn't the only thing you want; maybe it's a shopping trip, charitable donation or even a holiday out of your old phone. Well, there are myriad sites that offer just that – and in most cases, you'll get more value using this method than just getting cash in your bank account.

For instance, if you're getting bored of your iPhone 3G, then you could just swap it for £112 at mobilephonexchange.co.uk, which is a pretty good deal on its own.

However, the same site will offer you £120 to spend at M&S, £123 for Argos and a whopping £130-worth of vouchers to spend at Debenhams.

And if you're all shopped out, the over at airmiles.co.uk, you can get 750 air miles, which equals flights to Paris, Amsterdam and, erm, Inverness. Even if you've managed to break your iPhone 3G, you'll still get 500 miles – so it's well worth checking it out.

There's also the charity option – many mobile phone recycling sites will offer the chance to donate your phone's worth to charity. For instance Envirofone.com will not only give you the option of bank transfer, cheque PayPal or vouchers for your phone, but an option to donate a portion of the reward to a charity, such as Children in Need, Barnados and Cancer Care too.

Recycling your mobile: Dealing with data

Dealing with data

You've managed to get the best price for your phone, found a reputable site to send it to and you've got your freepost envelope ready to send it off. However there are a couple more things you need to be aware of before you ship your old mobile friend off to the suppliers.

For instance, there are some of you that might have bought the phone somewhere other than a retailer, perhaps off a friend or at a car boot sale. Therefore it's important to check the phone is legitimate first before posting, as not only will most sites not pay your should it be discovered as stolen, but some will pass your details onto the authorities too.

The good news is it's easy to check; simply go to CheckMend, which is the world's largest database of over 40 billion serial numbered items of property with information that is relevant to purchasers of used goods. For £1.99 you can check the history of any item of property including the likes of laptops, mobile phones, Sat-Navs, gaming consoles and iPods.

You'll need the phone's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, which can be displayed on most phones by dialling the code: *#06#. The IMEI is also usually printed on the compliance plate under the battery.

After that, make sure that you've taken out the SIM card, memory card and wiped all the data (see Wipe It Clean for more information on how to do this). After all, with all the research you've done to get the best price, you don't want to give a little extra gift of all your text messages, numbers and photos from the last couple of years...

Wipe it clean

If you're looking to get rid of your phone, then you'll need to make sure that you've got rid of any personal data such as messages, contacts or photos.

Simply going through and deleting might do the trick but there's always a chance you've missed something, like your internet browsing history or email passwords.

For some devices, it's a simple process. For instance with Android phones, you can simply browse to privacy settings, click 'Factory Data Reset' and the phone will completely wipe itself.

For Nokia phones, most of the time you can completely eradicate data by tapping *#7370#, or with the iPhone it's a simple case of connecting it up to iTunes and following the on screen prompts.

Mazuma Mobile offers a data delete tool for hundreds of mobile phones, giving you a step by step guide to removing data on your phone via email. It's a simple and free service, offering elements ranging from 'secret' codes that will wipe your phone, guiding you through the menu to the reset function or even which buttons to hold down to automatically reset your handset.

And don't forget to back up your data – in most cases you should install the bundled software that came with your phone (such as Nokia PC Suite, Samsung New PC Studio iTunes for Apple iPhone) and follow the on-screen instructions to backing up photos and contacts. Messages are harder to save, but many smartphones now offer that functionality too when connected to a PC or Mac.

What inside a phone can be recycled?

Screen - The LCD inside a phone (up to 10% of the construction) currently cannot be recycled as a separate part, so has to be ground up and metals extracted from within it. However, researchers hope in the near future the liquid crystals used in these displays can be harvested to save money and waste.

Battery – Mobile phone batteries contain a number of harmful materials, and are one the most important elements to dispose of safely. Cadmium, lead and mercury all will dissipate into the soil when used for landfill putting the local environment at risk, but can be recovered to make new batteries.

Casing – Mobile phone casing is mostly plastic, making up 30% of the phone. While this cannot be easily recycled (due to a large amount of glues and other epoxies present) it can be melted down and used for things like traffic cones and benches.

Circuit board – The brain of the phone is made of a mixture of things, such as copper, gold and plastic. Generally printed for ease of manufacture, this is often saved and re-used in other products where possible.

Ceramics – A mobile phone is made up of approximately 20% ceramics, primarily around the antenna area. This is due to being robust, but also being able to let radio signals pass through the phone structure, and can mostly be recovered for re-use.

Copper – Making up around 15% of the phone's construction in various forms, copper is used on everything from circuit boards to wiring. It can be melted down in a smelting furnace and be re-used in things like ski bindings or roofs.

Aluminium – Used in less than 1% of the phone, aluminium is sold to metal refineries. In the refinery, it is smelted and purified and necessary alloying elements are added. The finished metal ingots can be sold again for production of new parts.

Gold – One of the most widely-used precious metals in a phone, it's used in connections within the handset. While making up less than 1% of construction, it is sent to precious metal plants for recovery. 300 grams of gold can be recovered from approximately 1 tonne of recycled mobile phones. The amount of gold extracted saves mining 110 tonnes of gold ore.

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