O2 Recycle: behind the scenes

Three bloggers wanted to find out what actually happens when you hand over your unloved gadgets. We gave them the chance to follow their old mobiles on their journey to being recycled. 2 phones ended up in Hong Kong and one is now being used by a lady called Sam in Ghana… heart warming no?


The New Year, as ever, brought New Year’s resolutions and for three bloggers, that resolution came in the form of recycling their old mobile phones instead of leaving them in the junk drawer.  This journey uncovered that it’s not always a case of unwanted gadgets being broken down for their core components, but in fact, many gadgets end up refurbished and resold in developing markets.

The three bloggers involved in the experiment:

1.    Karen Cannard, based in Bury St Edmunds:  http://www.therubbishdiet.co.uk 

2.    Susanna, founder of BritMums: http://www.amodernmother.com

3.    Mrs Green, based in semi – rural England: http://littlegreenblog.com

How did this all begin?

The idea was born over a lunch with Karen; she was fascinated by the possibility of following her old mobile on its journey to being recycled.  With the help of our recycling partners Redeem, we could track her device, to see where it ended up.  However, we thought it would be much more interesting to get more people involved and soon we had an army of three ready to track their mobiles.

What our bloggers have to say about all this:

Karen Cannard; “It still fascinates me that my useless old phone, which would have most likely ended up sitting in a drawer for years, is actually being put to good use over on the other side of the world.”

Mrs Green; “From the moment we put something in the recycling bin, it’s instantly ‘out of sight, out of mind’. We assume we know where it ends up and we make ourselves feel better by justifying our recycling habits, but it’s not until you are privileged enough, as I was, to be able to intimately track what is going on, that you become more personally involved. I feel some kind of connection with Sam who picked out the very mobile I got rid of and decided it was the right one for her.”

Susanna; “I like the idea of the phone being gussied up, and given a new life, and not in a box in our attic gathering dust.”

And so the journey commences:

Each of the bloggers restored their mobiles to factory settings, to ensure that all private data was obliterated and sent it off to be recycled.  The 3 mobiles then made their way to Scotland where Redeem is based.

Behind the scenes at Redeem:

The start of the process is a quick check of the condition of the gadget –resulting in the old mobiles being graded either A, B or C.

Grade A means the phone requires no work and can go straight out for sale.

Grade B is the same as above but more time is spent on light buffing and cleaning, removing cosmetic damage and light wear and tear.

Grade C means heavy damage; it might not be functioning properly or there could be damage to the buttons, cracks on the screen etc. These phones have to undergo an improvement process or sold to a developing market to be done there.

After the bloggers’ old mobiles had been graded, we were able to let them know how much money they would be receiving (this is standard when you recycle your gadgets O2 Recycle). The phone then travelled to a holding unit where it was kept for 48 hours in case the recycler changed their mind and wanted their phone back.

Where things get exciting

Depending on the grade of the gadget, it was transferred to a different market to be auctioned for re-sale. 2 mobiles made their way to Hong Kong and were put up for auction there whilst perhaps most excitingly one arrived, as part of a batch of mobile phones, to a small business owner in Ghana.  He then sold it on to Sam, a lady who walked through the door looking for the perfect new mobile phone. 

It really isn’t a case of one use only is it now?  Did you know that gadgets recycled with O2 recycle could end up being re sold in markets across the world?