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Turning old mobiles into shopping vouchers

Many of us are hoarding treasures, owning quantities of silver, gold and platinum at home we’re not even aware of! How come? Because these precious metals are hidden inside disused smartphones lying around in drawers. But now, MediaMarktSaturn is helping customers to monetize this treasure and save natural resources into the bargain.

Whenever customers buy a new smartphone, what do they pay attention to? As well as operating smoothly, it also needs to be fast, take good pictures, and run the latest apps. And if it looks cool, so much the better! But once a smartphone is a few years old and no longer state-of-the-art, people feel it’s time to get a new one.

Even new smartphones grow old

On average, Germans replace their mobile phones after just 18 to 24 months – frequently even though they’re still in full working order. According to IT industry association Bitkom, six out of ten smartphone owners bought their device last year. Many customers always want to have the latest mobile because they require a longer battery life, more storage capacity or a better camera.

The secret life of forgotten smartphones …

But what happens to all the old phones made superfluous as a result? Essentially one of two things:

  • Some people simply throw their old smartphones away in the household waste, especially if they really are broken. However, as well as being harmful to the environment, this is now illegal (which unfortunately doesn’t stop it happening).
  • Many people put their old cell phone in a drawer as a spare in case their new phone develops a fault. Of course, people are welcome to do this, but it makes more sense to trade in old phones so that they can still be used by someone else for as long as possible.

Trading in cell phones is still the exception, at least in Germany, where people tend to hoard their old mobiles. In 2018, Bitkom estimated the number of unused smartphones lying around in cupboards and drawers to be a whopping 124 million. And this figure is plainly on the rise, for back in 2010 there were only 72 million unused phones in people’s homes. In less than ten years, the number almost doubled!

Free up that drawer full of bits and bobs!

In principle, keeping an old mobile in a drawer along with the many other items that end up there waiting for the day they’re needed again isn’t really a problem. The thing is that smartphones contain gold and silver as well as platinum and palladium – all precious metals which are obviously valuable. And like all electronic devices, they also contain rare-earth elements – raw materials which are expensive because they’re seldom economically exploitable, and whose extraction is often beset by ecological and social problems.

Phone Sell & Go: Insert your phone, salvage raw materials, collect a shopping voucher

The quantities of raw materials on our planet are dwindling as it is, making them more and more costly. Consequently, one industry after another is switching to closed loop recycling systems. And smartphones are much too valuable to simply be thrown away with the household refuse or even left in a drawer.

For years, environmental NGOs have been pioneers of cell phone recycling with schemes like Old Phones for the Havel (set up by conservation organization NABU) and Mobiles for the Environment (Environmental Action Germany).

The new Phone Sell & Go recycling machines make it even easier and more appealing for MediaMarktSaturn customers to return their smartphones for professional recycling, thereby saving valuable raw materials.

Customers simply place their mobile phone inside the Sell & Go machine. There are two main options:

  • If the phone is switched on, the machine asks the customer about its configuration and condition and scans it with a high-resolution camera. It then makes a financial offer to the customer – and if they agree, they receive a Saturn voucher equating to the phone’s residual value.
  • If the phone isn’t switched on, it’s probably broken. In this case, the machine offers to send the phone to recycling free of charge.

"Phone Sell & Go" at MediaMarktSaturn

Various providers are being tested at MediaMarktSaturn in Germany. Since the end of January 2019, Cellomat machines have been tested in the Saturn stores Alexanderplatz, Europa-Center and Schlossstraße in Berlin. So far, Saturn has accepted 550 mobile phones and paid out customers an average sum of €65 in the form of a shopping voucher.

At MediaMarkt, comparable vending machines will soon also be tested at several locations. The principle is the same: Once the smartphones received have been examined, the data they contain is completely deleted in accordance with data protection regulations and then, depending on their condition, they are either resold or disposed of properly.

Of course, employees can also help customers delete old personal data, expertly set up new phones, and transfer data from their old mobile to their new one. There’s no easier way to upgrade your smartphone while recycling the valuable raw materials in its predecessor – and it’ll free up space in your drawer, too!