How to sell your old mobile for cash

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

iPhone 3GS

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."