Compare and Recycle

Year in Review: The Most Recycled Phones of 2023

three mobile phone silhouettes on a podium

Welcome to Compare and Recycle’s Year in Review! Every year thousands of phones get recycled through our comparison, and as the new year kicked off, we decided to wrap up the numbers to share the most impressive highlights and reveal the UK’s most recycled phone of 2023. Keep reading to find out which phones made the list!

What Happened In 2023?

For smartphone makers, 2023 wasn’t without a struggle. Facing supply and demand issues, worldwide shipments of phones fell dramatically totalling to 1.16 billion, which is even lower than 2022’s figure of 1.2 billion. However, manufacturers stayed within their release schedules and delivered some of the finest smartphones of the year. The iPhone 15 came with the most anticipated change that had been rumoured for over a year, the inclusion of the USB-C port. Samsung unveiled two of their foldable smartphones, the Galaxy Z Flip 5, Galaxy Fold 5 and Galaxy S23 which are only getting better with every new generation. Google’s Pixel 8 and 8 Pro joined the party with AI that will completely transform how you take pictures.  

Unsurprisingly, screen-on-time has once again remained at a high. According to DataReportal, people in the UK spend on average 3 hours 46 minutes per day on their mobile phones. In terms of our upgrade habits, Compare and Recycle’s survey, commissioned by YouGov, found that 22% of respondents in the UK reported using trade in services which is a disappointing figure…

But what about the UK’s recycled phones? Compare and Recycle has an answer for you. 2023 has seen a wide range of smartphones being recycled with the release dates of models traded stretching all the way back to 2016.

Phone Recycling 2023: Compare and Recycle Highlights

What iPhone Was The Most Recycled In The UK

Despite the everlasting debate which phone is better: iPhone or Android, the UK is definitely an iPhone land. Therefore it was expected to see iPhones take up the majority of traded in phones. But which iPhone led the way as the most recycled in 2023?

Once again, the iPhone 11 tops the list as the most traded in iPhone for recycling in 2023, pushing the iPhone 7 to the 15th position for the first time in years. The top 3 is now shared between iPhone XR and iPhone 12. The iPhone 11 was released in 2019 and most reviews were positive, highlighting its performance, battery life, and cameras. However, the release of the iPhone 14 series in September 2022, was the reason many decided to part with their three year old iPhone. It meant that the support for the iPhone 8 came to an end and since then we have seen hundreds of them being traded in. Once the iPhone 14 was released, it also meant that the iPhone 11 was already 5 years old and the main driving factor for it being at the top in 2023. Of course, as the iPhone 11 has gotten older, the average price has dropped since last year. This means in total customers generated £4.5 million by trading their iPhone 11. To put it in perspective, this sum is enough to pay an annual energy bill for 2170 households! Collectively, consumers who recycled their used iPhone 11 prevented over 4624kg of e-waste.

Coming in second on our list is the iPhone 12 with owners keeping them on average for 5 years.. This model came out in 2020 and the iPhone XR came in at 3rd place. Despite this, the iPhone 11 still managed to become the best-selling iPhone during that year, and probably in recent history of iPhones. With the help of Compare and Recycle, the iPhone 12 pocketed owners an astonishing amount of cash for themselves, totalling over £4.4 million, all while offsetting over 1231 tonnes of CO2. The iPhone XR cashed in £1.5 million as well as 832,030kg of CO2 offset.

Apple's iPhone XR was designed with affordability in mind. It retained many of the features of its premium counterparts, including a large display, Face ID and advanced cameras. This could be the reason why owners of this iPhone kept it in use on average for 5 years. The iPhone XR cashed in £1.5 million as well as 832,030kg of CO2 offset and  4,624 kg of iPhone XR models were recycled which otherwise could have been landfilled.

Overall, these three iPhones at the top of our list avoided an impressive 9,743.87kg of e-waste and have made their ways into the hands of their new owners. Well done to all the iPhone users who have made this happen!

What Android Phone Was Recycled The Most In 2023

Samsung phones are renowned for their popularity and success across the Android community. This year, Samsung has pushed the boundaries of smartphone technology even further with the Galaxy S23 lineup, pushing users of older models to upgrade.

When it comes to recycling, the Android leaderboard has been taken over by Samsung phones, namely Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy S22 Ultra.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G made a huge splash in 2021, offering consumers the latest and greatest in mobile technology. With its cutting-edge features, sleek design, and upgraded camera, fingerprint scanners came built into the screen and powerful processors. In terms of recycling and, while saving over 865 kg of e-waste, consumers earned over £914K when recycling their Galaxy S21 which is an impressive amount for a three-year-old smartphone.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G came in second among the Androids and was defined by 5G connectivity, 120Hz refresh rate display and exceptional viewing quality. The Galaxy S21 5G trade-ins have generated for UK consumers slightly more due to the S21 being a newer model. We have seen nearly £6 million worth of Galaxy S21 Ultra being recycled throughout 2023, resulting in over 573kg reduction of e-waste. 

Being kept for an average of only 1.7 years, the much newer Galaxy S22 Ultra has made it to the top three most recycled Android phones in 2023. With a respectable average price of £432.13, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra trade-ins have boosted their owners’ wallets by over £990 thousand.

Summing up, people who decided to recycle their Samsung phones instead of stashing them in a drawer saved over 1.9 tonnes of e-waste, and that’s just the top three Samsung phones. What a great milestone!

How Can I Recycle My Tech

Would you recycle tech if it was easier? The answer is almost definitely a yes. A survey showed that almost half of the UK would indeed recycle their tech if it was simple, and if you are reading this article, we count you in. Well, Compare and Recycle is the easiest way to recycle your phones and other gadgets, all from the comfort of your home! By recycling your used tech, you are helping to reduce e-waste and contribute to a greener world. In fact, more than 3 million people have already used our services to recycle their tech and contribute to the circular economy. Will you join us in doubling the above milestones in 2023?


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