Laptop and smartphone on bed

Hands up if you have a large array of old mobile phones, desktops, laptops, tablets and wires that you have no idea how to get rid of?

Join the club (and it’s a big one!) For mobile phones alone, it’s estimated that there are up to 15 million unused mobiles in UK businesses and homes. A recent survey found that half of UK households had at least one unused electronic device and 45% of homes had between two and five. 

Here are our top tips on how to declutter electronics and let go of that clutter once and for all!

White headphones, keypad and mouse on pale pink background

How to declutter electronics

  1. Gather into boxes or bags old cables and any unused electronics you find lying around your home
  2. Sort through and decide for each item whether you still need and use it. Look out for the manufacturer's name so you can match up old chargers to devices. If you don't know what a cable belongs to, let go of it. Alternatively, box unknown cables and if you have not used them in 6 months, then let go of them.
  3. If there are lots of duplicates, cap yourself at a certain number e.g. 2 micro USB cables. Think of when you would use them to determine what is the right number for you.
  4. We often keep things because we are worried we may need it in the future. In this process, you may end up discarding a wire that you later need. Let go of that worry by reminding yourself you will very able to buy a replacement if needed in the future.

How do you let go of your unwanted electronics responsibly?

Once you have decided which electronics you are letting go of, you can decide how you are doing to do this. Electronic devices contain toxic components and rare elements. Therefore, if they cannot be reused or sold you should recycle electronics or dispose of them safely.

Most of us want to let go of these items as sustainably as possible (rather than putting them in landfill) but where do we start? Below we have set out our top tips for letting go of these items in the UK.

1. Apple devices

You can recycle any Apple device (including devices from Apple-owned brands) at any Apple Store and online for free and trade in Apple products

Holding mobile phone - declutter electronics

2. Mobile phones

a) Charity

Our phones contain many materials that can be reused. Some of the easiest ways to recycle your mobile phone is to pass it on to a charity shop, which can make money by selling them on to mobile phone recycling companies. For example Little Lives raises money to support disabled and disadvantaged children. You just need to reset your phone to factory settings, remove any cloud-based protection e.g. iCloud or Google Find My Device and package the phone with its charger with newspaper and bubble wrap and post it using their pre-paid label. Also check out this list on the Restart Project's website for local charities in the UK which accept unwanted smartphones.

b) Return to a phone shop

You can usually return the mobile phone to the shop you bought it from and make money by selling it back to the supplier. Most of the main phone providers enable this. For example:

  • Vodafone - instore or online quote for trading in your old phone from any network and put money towards new phone, discounted plan or credit on your bill
  • EE Recycle & Reward allows you to send it your phones from any network to a freepost address. Enter your device and details on the condition of the phone and you'll receive a quote based on that.
  • O2 - enter the details of your device online and receive a quote. 
  • Virgin Media - enter your old smartphone’s brand, model, or IMEI number to discover how much you could get through Virgin Mobile Recycle.

 c) Selling mobile phones

You can also sell your mobile phone online and there are a host of sites offering this service. It is worth getting quotes from a few sites to see which one gives you the most money back from selling your old mobile phones. Here are some options:

Mac laptop on wooden stand with mouse and keypad in front of it

3. Declutter electronics such as laptops, computers and tablets

a) WEEE Charity

A non for profit UK registered charity that helps to relieve poverty by offering a free complete recycling of computers and electrical equipment to businesses, residential and education facilities. They can take the technology no matter what condition it is in. You can request a collection online via their website.

b) Restart Project

This is a social enterprise which runs Restart Parties where people teach each other how to repair their broken and slow devices – from tablets to toasters, from iPhones to headphones.  They have an extensive list on their website setting out where you can donate old laptops, computers and smartphones in the UK to a good cause (click here to view it).

c) Recycling centres 

Most local recycling centres allow you to recycle electronics. If electrical items are in working order but are just unwanted, often recycling centres have a “shop” or drop off point for items that can be reused so check with your local centre. For example, ReWork is a reuse project operating at the Wandsworth recycling centre in London.  You can find your nearest recycling points for items at: https://www.recyclenow.com/

d) WEEE banks

In North London, you can recycle small electrical items and cables at WEEE banks and book collections for larger items. Click here to find out what you can recycle, free collections and recycling banks near you.

e) PC World and Currys 

These businesses also accept unwanted electrical products and recycle them for free, even if you haven’t bought the items from the shop.  They have a full list of items they take on their website (including cameras, computers, DVD / CD players, electronic toys and games, hi-fi, laptops, mobile phones).

f) Dell

If you have bought any Dell electricals, you can recycle it through their Recycling & Reuse Scheme.

4. TV hubs

  • Virgin Media provides advice on their website as to your nearest recycling point
  • Sky - send them their equipment to recycle by completing this form online
  • BT will recycle old BT Hubs and you can do so either via the Post Office with a pre-paid label or by calling into an EE store.

5. Gamers

Get Well Gamers is a great charity to donate video games, consoles or accessories to help them bring joy to children and young people in hospitals across the UK.

Safety / security

Many people are concerned about protecting their personal data when they declutter electronics. A "factory reset" should protect that and council tips and responsible retailers keep electronics secure before they are recycled. Remember to back up your data before resetting your device. Here are useful guides from Which? about how to:

Factory Reset a Computer

How to wipe your data from a hard drive

Wipe and reset an old iPad or iPhone

Wipe and reset a Samsung

So, instead of letting your old devices gather dust or meet their demise at the bottom of your bin, declutter electronics and recycle them sustainably! If you need a hand, book a session with one of our organisers to help you here.