How to Sell, Donate & Recycle Your Old Electronics: Advice & Links

Global Recycling Day is on 18 March and it coincides nicely with spring cleaning season. Give yourself a fresh start and your old electronics a new lease of life with these tips.

As an added incentive, if you bring any broken electronics or electrical equipment to your nearest Currys in the next month, they’ll give you a £5 voucher to spend in store. You can find out more – and see where your nearest store is –
on the Currys site. 

Why recycle?

Electronic goods, including computers and phones, are the world’s fastest growing rubbish problem. On average, British people throw away
around 23kg of electronics a year.

There are a number of reasons that this is such an issue. Electronics contain toxic materials including mercury, lead, zinc, nickel, barium, cadmium and chromium. And once they’re dumped, they have to go somewhere.

If e-waste ends up in landfill, these toxic chemicals can seep into the groundwater. If the rubbish is burned, it pollutes the atmosphere. People who lives near e-waste sites can suffer extreme health problems including cancer and damage to their immune and nervous systems.

But electronics are also full of valuable materials such as copper, silver, gold, tin and titanium, which can be recycled and re-used. So can more common materials, like glass and plastic.

Start by decluttering

If you’re anything like us, you’ve got ageing electronic equipment stashed in drawers, boxes and cupboards around your home. This is a good time of year to sort it all out. 

Start by locating all of your nests of electronic and electrical clutter and get everything together in one spot. This is a trick we borrowed from Marie Kondo. It’s a lot easier to make the decision to say goodbye to an old ethernet cable when you realise you have eight of them.

Make sure you have a plug point and an internet connection within reach. You want to be able to test all of your items so you know what works. You’ll also want to look up items to see what they’re worth.

Ideally, set up camp in front of the TV or where you can listen to a podcast while you sort things out. Having something to keep your mind at least partially occupied gives you the best chance of getting the job done. Decision fatigue is a real thing and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and think you’ll sort it out later. Then you’ll just end up chucking everything back where you found it.

Find three bags or boxes and label them ‘Sell’, ‘Donate’ and ‘Recycle’.

Separate your stuff into like items. Match cords, cables and accessories with electronics. As you go through things, check for damage. Anything that’s broken can go straight into the recycling container.

If you think an item is worth selling, look it up online and see what you could get for it. If something is in good shape but it’s not worth your time selling, consider donating it. Below, we’ve got options for new homes for all of your old electronics.

Places to sell your old electronics

If it still works, why not sell it?

Facebook Marketplace is a solid option. There are no fees and if you don’t think an item is worth posting or are worried about it getting damaged in transit, you can set your listing to pick-up only and meet your buyer at your door.

Other local options in the UK include
Schpock and
Nextdoor. You’ll need to download the apps to use these services.

If you have a number of items to sell and think it’s worth paying a fee to reach more people, it’s
probably worth listing on eBay.

Does that all sounds like too much hassle? You might not get as much money but it’s considerably less stressful to sell your phone, tablet or laptop to a company such as
Music Magpie, which provides a price checker on its website. 

In fact, if you have old phones to sell, you have plenty of options. O2, for example, will
give you an online quote for your old phone and is currently offering price matching.  

Where to donate old electronics

Okay, you can’t sell it but it still works. Donate these items.

Charities

If you’re in the US,
here’s a really useful list of charities that accept old computers and electronic equipment.  

If you’re in the UK, there are a number of charities that will take your old electronics and recycle them. Many offer a pick-up service – although you’ll have to be donating more than just an old phone. Specialist electronics recyclers will even accept broken items.

If your items still work, the
British Heart Foundation accepts all kinds of electrical equipment. They’ll sell it in one of their furniture and electrical shops. They will take a huge number of electrical items, from lamps to fridges.

For safety reasons, there are some things they can’t accept. This list includes:

  • Electric blankets and showers
  • Sunbeds and tanning equipment
  • Waste disposal units
  • Power tools that no longer have an instruction manual
  • Recalled appliances (some Beko fridges; some Whirlpool washing machines)
  • Tumble dryers and washer dryers
  • Gaming machines

If you’re not sure about an item,
give them a ring. They will also
organise a pick-up if you have a reasonable amount to donate.

There may be someone in your neighbourhood who would get a lot of use out of your old blender. Small home appliances that you no longer use can make a big difference to another family. If you download
the OLIO app for Apple or Android, you can very easily connect with people who live near you and list items that they can pick up. It’s a great way to cut waste and help out a neighbour and listing items is fast and easy. To find out more about OLIO and see what we thought of it,
check out our article.

Where to recycle 

Anything that’s damaged or hopelessly outmoded should go straight into your recycling box. So should all the stray cables and accessories that have become separated from their tech. If it’s been in a box in the cupboard under the stairs for a year, there’s really no need to keep it. If you suddenly find out, in six months’ time, what that little widget is for and decide that you can’t live without it, you’ll be able to order another one online.

Recycling locally

If you’re in the UK, visit
www.recyclenow.com and enter your postcode. It’ll locate the nearest recycling centre for you. Your recycling centre will have a specific area marked out for ‘small electricals’. You can simply drop off your items there.

Take electrical items to Currys

As we mentioned above, Currys will take your old small appliances and electronics. The retailer has 313 in-store locations where you can drop items off. Visit
the Currys website for more information.

Your old items will be repaired, re-homed or recycled. Currys gives away 14,265 electrical items every year to charities and social housing via the Reuse Network.

Where to recycle a phone that’s too old to sell

If your phone is too old to sell, you should try to recycle it. Because phones contain so many valuable materials, it’s better to get them to a specialist recycling location. You can drop it off at almost any phone shop or request a free post envelope to get it to the right place. Lots of charities will send you one, if you request via their website.

Where to recycle batteries

Some local councils allow you to recycle batteries. If you’re in the UK, visit
recyclenow.com. If you enter your postcode you can find out if your local council supports this service. If it does, you can put them in with your ordinary recycling.

It’s also very likely that your local supermarket has a battery collection point. If not, your old batteries can also go to your local recycling centre.  

Upcycle

The final option to get your old electronics of out the cupboard and back into use is to repurpose them.

Your old laptop may be too slow for you to work or game on but it could still make a great dedicated Netflix and DVD player for your kids. Old iPods can be used as multimedia players and old webcams reused as security cameras. If you’re electronically-minded, you can use electronic components on your own projects.  

Need to recycle old coffee capsules?
Here’s what to do.

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