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More work to do on encouraging people to recycle unwanted phones, research finds

Melanie May | 8 March 2024 | News

A stack of mobile phones and tablets. By Gabriel Freytez on Pexels

Over 100 million old mobile phone devices – worth an estimated £14.1bn – are lying unused in the nation’s homes, with the same amount having been thrown in the bin, according to mobile network giffgaff.

Based on a survey of 2,000 UK adults last month, giffgaff estimates that the average UK adult has at least two old mobile devices lying unused in the home, and has thrown a further two in the bin. With the average giffgaff trade-in value at £133, this equates to £532 worth of unused or discarded handsets per household. 

According to the survey, men hold on to or throw away more old phones, with the average UK male having three unused handsets at home and throwing away a further two. Women have thrown away two old handsets on average, with a further two lying unused at home.


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Only 57% of old phones that have been thrown away were broken or damaged. 36% of those surveyed have never traded in or recycled an old phone for cash, and 11% didn’t realise that throwing away old mobile phones was bad for the environment.

Motivating factors for getting people to buy or sell an old phone were firstly money (for 48%), followed by knowing that recycling a phone is a more sustainable choice that helps cut down on landfill (28%), and that a recycled phone would be donated to help a good cause (31%).

The mobile network also found that 10% of UK adults claim to have donated less to on-street fundraisers, charity representatives and homeless people as a result of the UK becoming a ‘cashless society’.

It has partnered with The Big Issue to provide 250 refurbished phones to vendors, enabling them to take cashless payments when selling the magazine. 

Ash Schofield, CEO of giffgaff, says:

“Our research shows that people are sitting on a significant amount of cash, at a time when finances are being hit hard. I would urge everyone to do what they can to get the maximum lifetime out of their phone. It’s good for your pocket and importantly the environment. And when you’re done with your phone, recycling it and putting it back into the ecosystem is great for helping people, like Big Issue vendors.


“Refurbished phones are a cost effective and more sustainable option for consumers – and we’re proud to have played a big part in raising that awareness.”

People can recycle their phones for cash via giffgaffrecycle.com, providing they are in decent condition.