What do with an old router: how to recycle your broadband equipment

An unused router

If you have an old router or broadband equipment gathering dust in a cupboard or attic, here’s how to recycle it – making the best use of resources while freeing up space.

Nowadays when internet service providers (ISPs) send you a router, there’s usually an expectation that you’ll return it when you’ve finished with it. But for a long time, switching broadband providers meant your chosen ISP would send you a new router, leaving your old one obsolete.

It’s estimated almost half of UK households have an old router in storage, so it’s likely you have one knocking around.

So whether you need to replace equipment because you’re taking advantage of the latest best broadband deals or you still have ancient kit adding to your clutter, here are the eco-friendly options for recycling your router.

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Extend your Wi-Fi network

If you have a large area you’d like your Wi-Fi to cover, it’s not a bad idea to give your old router a second life. You could extend your signal into your garden, for example.

One option to extend your Wi-Fi is to use adapters via your powerlines. But this is a good alternative. You just need to connect your old router to the wireless network via the Wi-Fi signal, and share access from the old router. This will give you greater coverage.

Depending on factors such as your broadband speed, how modern the old router is and so on, there may be some delay issues. But hopefully the signal will be good enough for day-to-day browsing, if not gaming or streaming.

Find out the optimal speed for streaming.

Set up guest Wi-Fi

Similar to extending your Wi-Fi network above, another option is to use your old router for guest Wi-Fi. This could prove useful if you have regular visitors or Airbnb any of your rooms.

By connecting the old router to your password-protected network, you can give guests a password-free connection. But this also gives you extra security because guests won’t be able to access other devices connected to the main network. Win-win.

Recycle your router

Routers are categorised as waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). And as such, they can’t be disposed of in your household waste.

Most ISPs will have reuse and recycle schemes in place, so you know that your router is going on to lead a fulfilling second life. All providers will avoid sending parts to landfill wherever possible.

Here are some of the major players’ schemes.

How to recycle a BT router

BT is committed to refurbishing and recycling equipment where possible, and it’s free for you to do so.

If you’ve become a BT broadband customer since 13 December 2019 or renewed your contract, your broadband equipment will be on loan. This means that if you get a new contract requiring a new router or take your business elsewhere, you risk a penalty charge if you don’t return your equipment.

You can find out exactly how to return your equipment on the BT website. But this will usually involve sending it in a return bag at the Post Office or arranging for a home collection. Both of these options are free of charge.

If you don’t return a Smart Hub, you’ll incur a charge of £43 or £50 for a Smart Hub 2. However, you’ll be refunded this if you return the equipment afterwards.

How to recycle a Sky router

Routers and any other old Sky equipment will be reused, or at least stripped down with parts being reused. Any equipment or parts which can’t be reused will be recycled.

If you’ve become a Sky Broadband customer since 4 March 2020, or renewed your contract, your equipment is on loan. As such, you’ll need to return it when you switch providers, or even change your Sky package in many cases. You can find out how to return or recycle old Sky equipment on its website.

Any equipment that you received previously will belong to you. But you can still send it to Sky for reuse or recycling if you want.

Your options for returning Sky equipment are:

  • By Royal Mail (find out how to send tech to Sky by Royal Mail)
  • During a visit by a Sky engineer
  • Take to a Sky Retail outlet if you live near one
  • Call 03442 414141 if you live on the Channel Islands.

How to recycle a TalkTalk router

If you’re a TalkTalk broadband customer and are switching to another provider, or upgrading your contract, you’ll be sent a pre-paid postage bag for returning equipment. You can recycle TalkTalk’s Wi-Fi Hub, Wi-Fi Hub 2, Wi-Fi Booster and GFast modem, among other tech.

You can return your TalkTalk equipment in the following ways:

  • Via Royal Mail Parcel Collect
  • At an Evri ParcelShop
  • At your local post office, or Royal Mail customer service point

You can find out more about returning TalkTalk broadband equipment on its website. TalkTalk may charge you £50 for any kit it’s supplied that you haven’t returned. Also, be sure to use the pre-paid bags, otherwise you’ll have to stump up for postage.

How to recycle a Virgin Media router

Virgin Media does its best to repair and reuse old equipment, and recycles what can’t be reused.

As a Virgin Media broadband customer, you’re encouraged to send back any equipment no longer in use, such as Hub 3, Hub 4 or Hub 5/5x routers.

If an engineer calls round, they can take it away with them. If you’re replacing equipment yourself, you can usually send back your old router in the new router’s packaging – just pop on the enclosed returns label. If you’re leaving Virgin Media, you’ll be sent a return bag.

Virgin Media equipment can be returned via your nearest Yodel store. You can find out more about Virgin Media returns on its website.

Sell it on eBay

You may be able to get some money for your old router, although it’s more likely to sell if it’s more modern and feature-rich. Especially if it wasn’t supplied by an ISP in the first place. Third-party routers such as those supplied by TP-Link and Asus are likely to be more in demand.

Similarly, if you have a router bought out of contract that’s Wi-Fi 6 compatible, for example, they’re likely to be hotter property.

If you fancy making a few quid, it’s worth listing your router on the usual suspects, such as eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace.

Just whatever you do, don’t put it in the bin. At very least, take it to your local recycling centre. And you can find your nearest WEEE centre here.