Smartphone e-waste

The Rise of Smartphone Recycling Firms: Lucrative?

Billions of individuals now own smartphones. While these gadgets were at one time thought to be a status symbol, their prices have significantly dropped and now nearly anyone can take advantage of the technological innovations that they have to offer.

While that is great from an industry point of view, a slight problem has emerged: What happens to older phones that are no longer in use? Not only can these models pose a slight environmental hazard, but they contain a number of rare earth elements such as palladium, rhodium and scandium (not to mention precious silver and gold).

Smartphone e-waste

Thus, firms which recycle these substances have grown in prominence. How are these units recycled and what benefits can the average consumer enjoy as a result?

The Recycling Process at a Glance

The first step is to utilise online services such as those provided by,, and many others. These portals provide real cash payments for any phone submitted. The exact value will depend upon the make, the model and its condition.

Older units that cannot be refurbished are then sent to a recycling company. This is when the process truly begins.

A mechanical crusher will first break these phones down into their core components. Powerful electromagnets separate the metals from plastics and other materials. Although the exact processes will vary depending upon the phone, the ultimate intention is to extract the majority of precious metals out of each device. These metals will then be used to create components within new smartphones and they may also satisfy other technological applications.

We should note that the amount of precious metals contained within mobile phones does not seem impressive when viewed from an individual basis. Indeed, an entire sack of smartphones is said to contain no more than one gramme of extractable gold. However, centres which recycle these units receive thousands of phones (or more) on a regular basis. The profits can quickly add up!

Cost vs. Return

The success of any business is ultimately determined by the return on investment (ROI). Whether referring to an iPhone 6 or an older Nokia model from the early 2000s, this principle is just as valid. You might be surprised to learn that recycling companies can turn quite a profit from such practices.

A study conducted in the United States illustrated that the average cost to extract metals from a smartphone was $0.18 cents. However, the revenue generated from these recycled metals was an impressive $0.75 cents. It should therefore be clear to see the growing attraction.

Woman holding an iPhone 4

What About Newer Models?

It is no surprise to learn that the average consumer is keen to turn in a phone that still relies upon technology that existed five or ten years ago. However, what about newer models such as the iPhone 6 or the 2015 Samsung Galaxy A5? Do online trade-in firms such as experience an influx of such variants?

To be sure, the chances are high that older phones take the lion’s share of outdated models. However, we live in a rather disposable society. Once the next version of a specific brand (such as the iPhone X) emerges onto the market, its predecessors are much less attractive. This is the very same reason why their prices will drop significantly as soon as an upgrade is released to the public.

Some of these older units will inevitably find their way to the modern recycling centre. This is to say nothing about phones that have been physically damaged or that have had their hardware corrupted.


As lucrative as it may sound, there are challenges smartphone recyclers need to address. The biggest one: E-waste.

While recycling in itself is a good practice of handling e-waste, the process itself is creating different forms of e-waste, namely nickel, cadmium, mercury, and toxic fume. Of course, recycling is still a good option, but are there better ones? Reusability comes to mind, but the ROI of such “greener” recycling operations need to be attractive enough for recycling centre to upgrade their facilities.

A Lucrative Opportunity

In many ways, we can look at modern smartphone recycling techniques as win-win situations. These methods help to protect the environment and they can salvage precious metals that would otherwise be wasted. This very same process enables newer phones to be produced at a slightly cheaper price; ultimately benefiting the consumer in the long run.

These are some of the reasons why you should seriously consider selling your old phone back to a reputable online provider such as Not only will you be provided with a cash reward, but you will be helping to benefit the industry as a whole.