How valuable is your mobile phone? I’m not just thinking about its importance to you, the implications of losing all your contact numbers, emails, texts, photos or music which your device may contain, but have you ever stopped to think what other precious materials may be stored within your phone?
Research suggests there are around 88 million mobile phones in use in the UK. Considering each may have a life span of around two years, as technology advances newer phones are discarded and more will find their way to landfill. How many outdated phones are forgotten and left stored within the nation’s desks and drawers? The total value of old devices is of increasing importance to the mobile phone recycling industry as a result of the wide range of components and metals used in manufacture – an industry that is expanding and playing a vital role in protecting the environment.
The mobile phone recycling sector can re-use and recover around 80 per cent of a phone. This will include plastic casings being recycled and used for other mouldings. Useful parts such as keyboards, LCD screens, microphones, screws, SIM card assemblies and speakers can all be re-used.
The circuit board in mobiles can contain precious and rare metals in the form of copper, lead, and zinc. These can be melted down and then either sold to jewellers or used to form the next generation of popular devices.
How much is all this worth? Let’s take an iPhone as an example of one brand on the market today, which houses gold, copper, silver and platinum and take each in turn.
Gold – A ton of iPhones would yield about 9.72oz of gold
Copper – A ton of iPhones would yield about 283lb of copper
Silver – A ton of iPhones would yield about 97oz of silver
Platinum – A ton of iPhones would yield about 0.9oz of platinum
Around 8000 iPhones would weigh around a ton and therefore in total produce the quantities of precious metals highlighted above. Bearing in mind that around 45 million iPhones have been sold to date, the vast amount of resources used can be calculated. We can also begin to understand exactly how important mobile phone recycling is to save these scarce metals and indeed our future planet.
A further component of all mobile phones is its battery. These are primarily lithium-ion (Li-ion) and also include iron, copper, nickel and cobalt. These batteries do have a certain life span and in due course will need replacing. Although the elements contained within them are classified as non-toxic and are considered safe for landfills, the metals can be recycled or re-used. Further batteries can be manufactured or the elements used for steel pots and pans.
Next time you upgrade your phone, don’t forget to not only transfer your personal items of value from it, but also consider its wider value in the context of our environment and pollution. Mobile phone recycling protects our precious resources and prevents these items from cluttering our landfill sites.