With new smartphone iterations coming thick and fast, electronic waste is becoming a major problem – and mobile phones are among the worst offenders. But the good news is you don’t need to wonder what to do with your old phones: almost every part of a smartphone can be recycled, preventing harmful materials going to landfill and preserving resources.

Even better? All you need to do is drop it off at a recycling station at any Officeworks store where it will be recycled as part of the Recycling at Officeworks program.

Recycling an old phone cuts down on e waste.

Why Should I Recycle My Old Phone?

The benefits of recycling old phones are threefold: first, you get to declutter those drawers. Second, it preserves valuable resources: the contents of a smartphone are, quite literally, a goldmine. And third, it saves electronic materials from going to landfill.

According to MobileMuster, the mobile recycling program through which Officeworks recycles unwanted products, there are almost as many disused phones hanging around homes as there are people in Australia. Out of the almost 26 million handsets being stored, approximately a fifth of them aren’t even working anymore.

When thinking about what to do with your old phone, remember that recycling is important.

What’s the Harm in Keeping a Spare Phone Lying Around?

Holding on to old phones while buying new ones creates an imbalance between the rate of consumption and the rate of reuse and recycling; and our current rate of resource consumption is unsustainable. The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report found, worldwide, a record 53.6 million tonnes of unwanted tech products (including computers, TVs, appliances and mobile phones) was discarded in 2019. Just 17.4 per cent of it was recycled. 

It’s far more environmentally and economically beneficial to tap the valuable resources – we’re talking finite rare earth elements and gold, silver and copper – within an existing phone than it is to mine new ones. It saves on CO2 emissions, too: making new products from brand-new materials requires a lot of fossil fuel to extract and process elements from the earth.

“The environmental benefit of recycling our mobile phones is gained from avoiding future greenhouse gas emissions, saving energy, protecting the environment and conserving natural resources,” says MobileMuster’s Larissa Shashkof. “It is also 100 per cent carbon-neutral recycling.”

Hot Tip: Smartphones aren’t the only devices full of valuable, reusable and recyclable materials. Chargers, cables and accessories and other kinds of tech are all recyclable – think computer monitors, keyboards, hard drives, mice and printers. These can all be taken to your nearest Officeworks as part of the Bring it Back program.

SEE ALSO: Electronic Recycling: Everything You Need to Know

To recycle an old phone, make sure to clear any data off the SIM card.

How Do I Recycle My Old Phone?

People are often reluctant to get rid of an old phone due to concerns over data security – but you can remedy this in a few simple steps. First, back up your data to your cloud-based account so that you don’t lose any important information or media. Next, log out of any cloud accounts and restore the phone to its original factory settings. This will wipe all your data from the phone. You can then upload your back-up files from the cloud to your new phone.

MobileMuster has instructions for data removal from each smartphone brand and links to tools to help you transfer files from your old phone to a new one. If you’re not transferring your old SIM card to a new phone, snip it in half and then half again with scissors. It can then be recycled along with the other components of your phone.

SEE ALSO: Make Your Device Last: Screen Protectors, Battery Life And More

Where Do I Recycle My Old Phone?

MobileMuster has a whole host of drop-off sites, including all Officeworks stores. It’s part of Officeworks’ Bring It Back program, which helps with the disposal of electronic waste, including phone accessories, cables and chargers.

The recycling bins are usually located at the front of the store, with different bins for different types of products – just pop your phone into the appropriate one. Once you’ve dropped your device through the bin’s slot, it will be sent to a MobileMuster recycling facility in either Sydney or Melbourne.

“The mobile phones are sorted and disassembled into components: batteries, printed circuit boards, casing, screens, accessories and packaging,” Shashkof explains. “These components are processed separately through shredding, crushing, heating and smelting techniques to maximise resource recovery.”

This process ensures any data left on your phone is destroyed. It also means more than 95 per cent of the materials used in the phone are recycled. “Last year, Officeworks collected 7.9 tonnes of mobile phone components which were recycled through the MobileMuster program,” says Shashkof.

Trade in Your Old Tech

If you have old devices that have been replaced, consider trading them in for an instant Officeworks gift card. With just a few questions, you can assess the value of your old phone, tablet, laptop or smartwatch, then receive a digital gift card for the agreed value to spend on whatever you like, in-store at Officeworks. To find out more check out the Officeworks Trade-in page.

Hot Tip: Just remember to delete any personal data from anything you trade in or bring in to be recycled.

SEE ALSO: Let the Geek Guide You: How to Set up a Mobile Hotspot and More

This article was originally published in 2021 and has been updated.