Reader question: I have bought a new mobile so I no longer need my old one. Where can I take it so that it can be recycled?
Despite France’s drive to implement a ‘circular economy’ and increase the number of products recycled, you cannot just dispose of electrical goods via your bins at home.
Although there is no specific penalty for binning old mobile phones, it is not recommended to just discard them in the standard waste or recycling bins due to the risk of toxic substances leaking into the ground if they end up in landfill.
It is possible, however, to either donate, recycle, resell, or simply return your mobile phone at a number of locations in France.
Firstly, you should wipe your phone’s memory before doing so.
Although some places will offer to wipe your phone for you, you cannot guarantee it will be done fully, so it is preferable to do it yourself. This includes deleting all photos, contacts, personal information and login information.
You can usually find information on how to do this online, specific to your phone’s model and operating system.
Recycle or donate your phone
If you want to safely and quickly dispose of the phone the best option is to recycle it.
Stores in France larger than 400m² that use part of their floorspace to sell electronic goods are required to accept ‘small electrical appliances’ for recycling.
In these shops, you will be able to find a recycling box to put your phone in.
France’s Ministry for Ecological Transition has a site that gives you nearby locations that can recycle your old mobile phone, which you can find here. You should click donner and then petit appareil ménager.
Another list of locations – including large shops as well as déchèteries (tips) – is available here (click petits appareils en mélange).
Alongside recycling, a number of places allow you to donate your old phone for reuse.
Instead of dismantling the phone and recycling the parts, they will attempt to repair damaged phones (or accept working ones) and then give them to needy people.
The website www.jedonnemontelephone.fr will collect your phone, wipe it, and check to see if it can be resold at a fair price, or simply donated to someone in need.
‘Eco-organisms’ such as Écosystème organise collection drives – you can ask your mairie if one is happening in your commune soon. These organisations are funded by makers and sellers of electronic goods, as part of their environmental responsibilities.
All mobile phone service providers (Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom…) are required to accept old phones in their stores.
Orange has a partnership with the Emmaüs charity to fix and refit old mobile phones before passing them on to those in need.
Some mobile phone providers will send you a pre-paid postage jiffy bag to put your phone into and forward back to them if you cannot easily get to a branch.
In most cases, where phones cannot be resold or donated onwards, the charity or company will instead recycle them.
Even the oldest phones can still be handed over for recycling.
Reselling your phone
Some retailers such as FNAC offer a service where you can exchange your old phone for money towards a new product in their store – although this is only possible if the phone is a modern smartphone, and even then not all models are accepted.
Telephone companies such as Orange sometimes offer a premium ‘buy-back’ service, where they will buy your phone from you and repair or dismantle it. Again, however, this is usually only applicable for newer models.
You could also sell your phone privately, using a service such as Leboncoin.