We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.


When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission to help fund our not-for-profit mission.Find out more.

19 Mar 2021

What to do with unused tech: how to recycle your old smartphone, tablet or laptop

If you have devices lying around the house that you no longer use, there are a number of ways to dispose of them

There are 40 million unused gadgets in our homes, according to a survey by the Royal Society of Chemistry, with 45% of us hoarding up to five unused devices.

So what can you do with them to avoid committing them to landfill? From passing them on to friends and family to selling, donating and recycling them, there are plenty of options.

But remember - if you're waving goodbye to your old technology, removing your personal information is a vital step. We've got more details below.

Give your tech away

If you have a friend or relative who isn't bothered about having the latest version of a gadget and your unwanted device is still in good working order, consider passing it on to them.

However, if the device is too old it will no longer be receiving software and security updates, making it vulnerable to hackers, so check before passing it on. Android phones and tablets aren't generally supported after three years, while you can expect to get five years from an iPhone or iPad.

If you want to give away your gadget but don't know anyone who wants it, using Freecycle is a good option. It's a network of local groups where you can arrange to give away - and receive - all kinds of unwanted items. You'll have to arrange collecting and delivering items yourself, though.

Trade in your phone, tablet or laptop

You can trade in your unused gadgets at retailers including Apple, Carphone Warehouse, Currys PC World, Tesco Mobile, Three and Vodafone, to get money off a new device or in exchange for a gift card.

For example, trading in a working 64GB Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone at Carphone Warehouse, which you can do online or in a store, will give you £95 off a new phone. Carphone Warehouse also promises to match any better trade-in price (from a major mobile network or Mazuma Mobile) and give you an extra £10 on top.

Or you could get a £50 gift card or £150 off a brand new Dell XPS Laptop if you trade in a working Microsoft Surface 2 laptop.

Selling your old device

You could make money from an old device by selling it through a tech-buying website such as CeX, or you could compare the prices you'd get at a range of sites via comparison sites such as Compare & Recycle and SellMyMobile: for example, you could get between £10 and £26 for an unlocked iPhone 6 with 64GB of storage.

Other sites you could sell your old tech on include musicMagpie, which also takes items such as books and CDs; Mazuma, where you can choose to drop off your device at a local DPD shop; and EcoATM, where you drop off the phone in a kiosk and it gives you a price.

On MusicMagpie, you call sell tech as well as other items such as CDs and books. You get an instant price on the website, post your items for free and get paid for them on the day they arrive. MusicMagpie refurbishes the gadgets it buys and resells them in the UK and elsewhere.

Mazuma works in a similar way, but you also have the option of dropping off your items at a local DPD shop.

You can sell your phone through EcoATM by placing it in a kiosk, which examines it and gives you a price instantly. Kiosks are limited, though, so visit the EcoATM website for details.

If you'd like your old device to go to a good cause, there are a number of ways to donate it to charity.

One example is WeeeCharity, which will pick up your gadgets free of charge and reuse, recycle or resell them to raise money for community projects. Similarly, Three's Reconnected scheme passes on donated phones to a range of charities including the Hyde Group and the Good Things Foundation.

If you take old tech to charity shops such as Oxfam, they will refurbish or recycle them, or donate the proceeds of selling your old device on eBay to charity through the eBay for Charity scheme. But be aware that some charities might not accept devices that are too old to receive security updates.

Which retailers can recycle tech?

If your tech is no longer working and you can't find anywhere else for it to go, there are various ways to recycle it. Some retailers, including Apple and Currys PC World, will take your tech to recycle in store.

Dell collects any computer-related or mobile devices to recycle for free if you've bought a new Dell system, or any Dell-branded products if you haven't.

If you don't want to use a retailer's scheme, recycle-more.co.uk will tell you more about how to recycle old kit locally.

Expert View: how your tech is recycled

Craig Stephens, campaign manager at Recycle Now

Waste electrical items collected at council recycling centres or in kerbside collections are taken to a reprocessing plant where they are shredded into small pieces.

Magnets are used to remove ferrous metals such as steel, while non-magnetic metals such as aluminium are separated using electrical (eddy) currents.

Different types of plastic are identified and can be sorted using near-infrared light or density separation.

Each raw material is then sent to be made into something brand new. For instance zinc, found in mobile phones, can be used in shipbuilding or for galvanising railings. Gold found in games consoles can be made into jewellery and plastics from lawn mowers can be used in musical instruments.

Privacy concerns when handing over your old smartphone

Whether you're gifting your old device to a relative, selling it or donating it to charity, make sure you've wiped your data and backed up files you want to keep.

On top of that, don't forget to remove any Sim cards or memory cards before you hand the device over. You'll be even more popular if you can pass on the box, charger and any other accessories that came with the device.

How to factory reset an Android smartphone

  1. Open your device's Settings app.
  2. Tap System > Advanced > Reset options
  3. Tap Erase all data > Reset phone
  4. Tap Erase everything to confirm

The steps above will vary depending on the Android model you're using. If in doubt, check the manufacturer's website.

How to factory reset an iPhone

  1. Open your device's Settings app.
  2. Tap General > Reset
  3. Tap Erase All Content and Settings

Sign up for Which? Computing

  • The UK's largest computing and technology title, published six times a year.
  • Easy, jargon-free advice so you can make the most of your tablet, laptop or smartphone.
  • One-to-one support from our friendly u200bTech Support u200bhelpdesk team, ready to respond to unlimited member queries.

Sign up to Which? Computing here, or call our customer service team on 029 2267 0000.