Your gadgets contain tiny specks of precious and rare earth metals — we rely on these dust-sized particles, which are so small they’re often not recycled because the cost of recycling outweighs the value of the metals. But according to the American Chemical Society, the overall value of these minute materials is massive.
In a report published Monday in Chemical & Engineering News, a materials scientist at Sheffield Hallam University does the maths on just how much precious metal is in your phone — and how much, overall, is in the phones sold in a single year:
Each phone contains about 300 mg of silver and 30 mg of gold. Just the gold and silver used to manufacture the phones sold this year are worth more than $US2.5 billion.
The report, titled Dialling Back On Cell Phone Waste, uses the statistic as a launching board into a look at efforts to improve how e-waste is dealt with. That includes everything from building a circuit board that dissolves more easily to reveal salvageable materials, to “biomining,” a process that uses organic materials to parse the metals.
Thanks to recent efforts from activists and journalists, the issue of e-waste is gaining more notoriety of late. You see, when you throw away a cell phone or computer (or even a power drill), it’s more often than not shipped to a poverty-stricken part of the world where workers are tasked with salvaging the metals inside them. That often means burning them — and inhaling toxic fumes — in order to scrape tiny bits of metal remaining inside the husks of your old gadgets. [Chemical & Engineering News]