Mar
09
2009

How much gold is there in my mobile phone?

How much gold? (photo by Gaetan Lee CC-BY)

How much gold? (photo by Gaetan Lee CC-BY)

Mobile phones contain a surprising amount of metal which can be recycled, and yet millions are thrown away or lie discarded in drawers and cupboards. One mobile phone from Nokia was found to contain Gold, Silver, Copper, Palladium, and Platinum. Each metal having a value, albeit small. The gold, weighing 0.034 grams, was valued at approximately $0.40. (28p) [1] Other metals include lithium and nickel from the batteries.

But don’t try removing it from the phone yourself as the extraction of the gold and other metals needs to be undertaken in bulk with sophisticated technology; one company in Germany, Norddeutsche Affinerie, uses a three stage electrolysis process which reduces all the metals into a sludge of fine particles from which individuals metals can be extracted and set into ingots or bars. It is reported that they are able to extract ½ ton of gold from 24 million phones.

The recycling process also ensures that the many harmful substances in the mobile phone including Cadmium, Rhodium, Beryllium and Mercury, can be safely disposed of instead of polluting land-fill sites and the environment.

Other electronic parts of the phone can be reused as components in other equipment, and the plastic from casing is reformulated and used in mouldings.

For advice on recycling your mobile phone go to Recycling Lives. By recycling your phone you can help also help a charity and well as the environment.

The early models of mobile phones were recognised to be very wasteful and mobile phone manufacturers and other electronic equipment manufacturers are now obliged to follow the European Union’s 2003 directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment WEEE to improve recovery and recycling rates for their products.

[1] Quoted on Encyclopedia of Earth

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