On average we replace our mobile phone every 18 months. Tina Leonard looks at the options for your old phone including selling it for cash and recycling.

It is estimated that 1.5 million mobile phones were replaced in Ireland every year and researcch shows that about half of those are still sitting in your bottom drawer.

Your phone is both quite valuable and quite toxic to the environment, so you should think carefully before just throwing it in a bin.

Some mobile phones and their accessories contain some of the most dangerous substances known to man.

Mobile phones contain small amounts of precious metals like gold silver and copper but they also often contain cadmium,, lead and beryllium, all of which are harmful substances that need to be disposed of in safe and efficient manner:

Recycle / Charity

Rehab Recycle have been reusing and recycling mobile phones for the past 5 years as part of their normal recycling business. The scheme is open to everyone (they provide free-post envelopes) and money raised supports the rehab group and enterprises.

The phone companies all collect phones to recycle for charity and you should find boxes where you can put your old phone in the phone stores. For example, Tesco’s chosen charity this year is Aware and Vodafone supports the Irish Heart Foundation.

But almost any charity you can think of has linked with a phone collection or phone buying company in order for funds to be raised for them via mobile phones; everyone from the Peter McVerry Trust to Trocaire, Debra Ireland, Barnardos. Barretstown, Temple Street Hospital, Irish Autism Ireland and more.

And yes the revenue earned can really make a difference. For example at the Jack and Jill Foundation (supporting children with neurological development issues), they say that 250 old phones can fund looking after a baby for one month and just 80 Smartphones can raise enough to look after a baby for one year.

Some organisations go further and have schemes with schools for example: Over €2 million worth of equipment have been put back into schools through Jack & Jill Mobile phone recycling. They encourage pupils to collect old mobile phones and for 500 old phones the students will receive a white board with projector and for 100 phones a laptop.

If you want to donate your old phone to a charity of your choice, contact them directly as many have freepost envelopes they can provide for you to send your phone in or go to recyclingappeal.ie which is a conduit for collecting phones for many charities for example.

While giving to charity in many instances you can also make money yourself from selling your old phone. For example folamh.ie (operating since 2004) buys your old phone and gives 25% to the Jack and Jill Foundation and greenyourgoods.ie (two years old) also facilitate charities in revenue raising.

Making cash

If you simply want to raise some cash for yourself there are two ways of doing this. Firstly if you have a covetable handset you may be able to sell it directly to a customer online or secondly you could sell it to a ‘cash for phones’ website.

Sell directly online

Donedeal.ie, eBay.ie, buyandsell.ie – take your pick. If your handset works then someone may want to buy it.

A browse on Ireland’s largest classified site dondeal.ie, brought up a lot of mobile phones for sale. The majority were iPhones, with iPhones 4 and 4s selling from €350 to €550. There was a Samsung Galaxy listed for €300, a HTC Desire for €175 and as for the non-smartphones, there was a Nokia C7 for €100, a Nokia 3210 for €65 and a Nokia E51 for €49.

Cash for phones websites

If you sell this way, you’ll have a guaranteed buyer in the cash for phones websites and this has become big business.

Customers are opting for regular upgrades and replace their phones for newer models, which results in plenty of spare phones to sell. One business I spoke to told me that Irish people have embraced this and their business had doubled from this time last year, while another told me that their intake had reduced from 300,000 to 250,000 a year, citing longer phone contracts as one reason. But there are also an increasing number of phone buying sites out there, so the Irish market is becoming more competitive.

Some people think this is all a scam but it’s not. For example fonebank.ie is an international company that has been in operation for twenty years and has an office in Ireland for the last two years; envirofone.ie is the UK’s largest phone recycling company, in operation for five years and has an Irish website and that you have Irish businesses like greenyourgoods.ie founded and based in Cork for almost two years.

They all in work in broadly the same way; you log on to the site, indicate the make and model of the phone you have to sell and check the listed price for that model on the website. You fill out the form, then send the phone in a jiffy bag, and receive a cheque in return.

This is a legitimate business but as always there are some operators out there who are less honourable and transparent so you have to be careful and choose wisely.

What to look out for:

o Know who you’re dealing with:

Some sites are UK based others Irish, but it is always advisable to only do business with one that provides full contact details, including phone and physical address. This is important so that you can call and ask questions or debate the amount being offered to you. A physical office may also be important to you in case you want to call in person.

o Make contact:

It is advisable to call or email any site first to double check what the price will be if the phone is damaged and whether you will be contacted prior to a cheque being sent to verify the amount you will get, or whether you can cancel and get the phone back. If you cannot get through by phone or your email goes unanswered, forget it.

o Know the process:

A good business will allow you to indicate whether your phone is damaged; clearly say how much the price will be reduced by if damaged and contact you prior to sending a cheque to verify the amount. This should also give you the opportunity to query the amount being offered and they should be able to send back your phone to you if needs be. In addition some ask for passport identification and bank details where your money can be sent. Ask why there process is like this and decide whether you feel it is safe.

o Check the price:

Prices they pay will vary so compare the various sites’ offers, but even if the price quoted is the best, if you can’t contact the business or it isn’t clear what their process is, go elsewhere. This is crucial as the most common complaint is of consumers getting a lot less that initially offered on the website.

o Post safely:

Always register your post and write the value on the package to avail of An Post’s insurance.

How much can you get?

There are many websites out there but to give an indication of the sort of prices you can expect for phones in workable condition, I checked just three websites: envirofone.ie; fonebank.ie and greenyourgoods.ie. You can expect to get half or more of the listed amount if your phone is damaged i.e. buttons missing, cracks, can’t power, applications don’t work.

Apple iPhone 3GS (32 GB): €117.63; €95, €125.14

Apple iPhone 4 (32 GB): €220.41; €225; €282.61

Blackberry Curve 8900: €40.76; €41; €43.36

Samsung Galaxy S: €135.69; €110; €101.19

Nokia 6300: €17; €17.50; €18.09

Nokia E51 (with camera): €17; €18; €15.68

What happens to my phone?

If the phone is beyond economic repair, it will be sent to a recycle centre and as there can still be inherent value in the component parts these are extracted first. However, this forms a minority of phone sold.

Unbelievable as it may seem your phone could have a new owner in as little as six weeks.

After collection the phones are first wiped (of data) and repaired if necessary. They are then sold to a refurbishment centre where original parts are used for replacement – the international centre for phone refurbishment is in Hong Kong. Higher end phones can sometimes be directly sold back to the European market.

More basic phones are usually sold in the Middle East, Africa and India, whereas higher spec phones (Smartphones) could be sold in Europe or the US, so with the growth in Smartphones some of this market is now shifting from Asia. Bear in mind that in Ireland our handsets are essentially subsidised via the contracts we take out with our phone provider, whereas in other European countries or the US they may have to pay full price for an iPhone for example, which might be €600. So there is a big demand for refurbished phones.

With 6 billion people owning and upgrading mobile phones worldwide, there is always someone who wants to buy a phone, so this a growing industry.