How to recycle your old handset

How to recycle your old handset

It seems every winter brings a new David Attenborough-narrated series which uncovers fresh horrors concerning mankind’s impact on the planet.

This year’s Seven Worlds One Planet series highlighted the impact of palm oil production, climate change and global overpopulation.

Yet it’s unlikely to eclipse the impact of his previous series, and in particular Blue Planet II’s final episode, which focused on the harmful impact of plastic on our environment.

This one-hour documentary inspired people around the world to reduce their consumption of raw materials, and look to minimise what they throw away.

However, that sits awkwardly with our love for smartphones.

These devices are expensively assembled using precious raw materials, before being traded in and discarded in favour of next year’s newer, shinier model.

Fortunately, it’s never been easier to recycle your old handset, keeping it out of waste bales and incinerators.

The Basel Convention encourages smartphone manufacturers to consider end-of-life management in new handsets, for easier recycling of components and raw materials.

These are some of the options at your disposal if you want to recycle your old handset:

Sell your phone. Chances are your smartphone featured some of the latest specifications when you bought it.

It’s not become archaic overnight, so why not sell it to a company who will reset it to factory defaults and resell it to someone who can’t afford a brand-new device?

They’ll get a phone that’s still pretty up-to-date, and you’ll avoid consigning a perfectly good piece of electronic equipment to landfill. And you’ll be paid for it.

Give it to charity.Many charities accept unwanted electrical items, which will be either gifted to poorer citizens at home or abroad, or sold in shops to raise money.

The British Heart Foundation is particularly proactive at collecting items, and local charities will often warmly welcome old devices being handed in.

It’s important that the phone is in working order, whereas companies like Mazuma and Envirofone will happily buy a faulty or broken handset.

Dispose of it responsibly.Around 80 per cent of a typical smartphone can be recycled, from precious metals like gold and platinum to components like camera lenses.

Local councils generally have small electrical bins at community recycling centres, where people can leave unwanted devices. Batteries may have to be deposited in a separate bin.

Handsets will be dismantled and recycled as far as possible, though some components still end up in landfill – or get exported to countries who accept the UK’s unwanted waste.

Can I buy a phone that won’t need recycling?

Any electrical gadget will eventually wear out and fail. But manufacturers are striving to improve the lifespan of their devices.

The Fairphone series of modular smartphones is perhaps the best example of this.

Billed by its manufacturers as the world’s first ethical and modular smartphone, each model features six key elements (camera, screen, etc) which can be replaced individually.

Fairphone handsets can be easily repaired at home, using supplied tools and video tutorials.

The antithesis of Apple’s sealed-unit philosophy, this means devices can potentially last for many years – keeping them out of landfill for longer.

Fairphones also use recycled plastics and ethically sourced raw materials from conflict-free zones.

And it’s not like the new Fairphone 3 will be out of date next week. It includes a dual-SIM chassis, 4GB of RAM and the same 12MP Sony camera lens used in Google Pixel phones.

It might not last forever. But it should ensure you don’t need to recycle your old handset for many years.

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