Swap your old gadgets for store vouchers to cut waste

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Millions of old mobile phones and computers gathering dust in cupboards are to be put to good use under the government’s first nationwide instant trade-in service for electronic gadgets.

Shoppers can exchange their unwanted gadgets – even if broken – for a gift card to spend on new items in Argos by taking them into any of the retailer’s stores throughout the country. Argos is running the scheme with Wrap, the government-funded waste reduction charity.

About £1 billion worth of electronic gadgets are lying unused in homes but still hold significant value, according to Wrap. Thousands are thrown away each week because of the lack of convenient ways to sell them and 40 per cent of these end up in landfill sites. Of course, some people do carry out mobile and computer recycling with the help of disposal companies like Concept Management. However, not many are wary of the wasteful and environmental issues that arise from these e-wastes.

Two thirds of people surveyed by Wrap said they would be willing to trade in their gadgets with “reputable retailers”. There are several postal schemes currently operating but those who send their gadgets often have to wait several days or weeks for payment. Wrap believes this deters many from doing so.

The new service from Argos will initially accept mobile phones and tablet computers. If it proves successful, it will be extended to other electronic items such as cameras, sat-navs and laptops.

The items will be sent to West One Technology, which specialises in recycling mobile phones. It will delete all the data on the gadgets, refurbish and resell them.

Many will go to insurance companies, which will send them to customers making claims for damaged devices. Argos said that the gadgets that could not be re-used would be “responsibly recycled for parts”.

Last year, 41.8 million tonnes of electronic items were disposed of globally, up from 33.8 million tonnes in 2010.