What’s inside your mobile phone and why may you want to recycle it?

Recycle your old gadgets like mobile phones

Inside a mobile phone showing the electronic components, many of which are valuable for recycling

Do you recycle the old mobile phone in some way or toss it in the bin? More likely you put it in a cupboard, forget about it, then bin it years later. That’s a waste and you should recycle it.

Today, there are around 2.8 billion smartphone users in the world. The raw materials used to manufacture mobile phones come from a variety of precious metals and rare earths. Though there is plenty of these precious metals in the world today, their supply is not infinite, and with time, they are bound to get depleted.

Which minerals are inside your mobile phone?

The minerals in your mobile phone enable various things including high-speed performance and vivid and detailed screens. Here’s a list of some of the minerals that power your mobile phone:

  • Gold: this precious metal is chemically stable, and it conducts electricity. The biggest exporters of this precious metal are China and South Africa.
  • Lithium: lithium is used to make phone batteries, and its demand has doubled due to the demand for lithium-ion batteries for cell phones and power tools. The world’s largest exporter of lithium is Australia.
  • Colton: Colton ore produces tantalum, which is used to make microprocessors, making the miniaturization of phones possible. Most Colton is sourced from DR-Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.
  • Plastics: these are used to make mobile phone circuit boards. They are made from heavy petrol which is distilled and treated with heat to create hard plastic.
  • Copper: serves as an electrical conductor in the circuit board.
  • Aluminium: this is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, and it is used in making mobile phone cases and components.
  • Gallium: this is a by-product of the mining and processing of zinc, copper, and aluminium. Gallium is mainly used to make amplifiers for mobile phones.
  • Lead: this metal, though toxic, is used in the solder that joins the parts of our phones

Though there are plenty of these metals in the world today, their supply is finite, and they are bound to get depleted. Moreover, mining has increased environmental degradation and in some parts of the world, such as DR Congo, mining of Colton has led to war and the loss of habitat for gorillas.

Inside view of a mobile phone without the case

Why you should recycle your mobile phones

The recycling of mobile phones and other e-waste is catching on around the world, though there is still lots of inaction. In Australia, for example, only 10 percent of the population recycles mobile phones, which translates to 23 million phones that just sit in homes collecting dust.

If you have been considering discarding your phone, here are some of the reasons why you should recycle it:

  1. Phones are rich sources of minerals which, when recycled, can help conserve habitats and prevent depletion of finite resources
  2. When disposed of badly, toxic minerals, such as lead, from phones can leach into the soil and water resources, contaminating them. Additionally, burning phones leads to the production of toxic gases, which further pollute the environment.
  3. Recycling old mobile phones saves energy. Did you know that a single recycled cell phone can charge a laptop for 44 hours? Also, one million recycled cell phones can produce power for 185 households annually, reducing the consumption of non-renewable energy.

If you have been thinking about recycling old your phone, why not give it a go and make hundreds of dollars from selling it, and at the same time, reduce pollution and improve health.

Author: Julian Smith



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