The average North American gets a new cell phone every 18 to 24 months. According to a report released by the United Nations on the growth in electronic scrap, a mobile phone can contain over 40 elements from the periodic table. These include base metals such as copper and tin, special metals such as cobalt, indium and antimony and precious metals such as gold, silver and palladium. Metals represent on average 23% of the weight of the phone, the majority being copper. The remainder is plastic and ceramic material.
A tonne of ore from a gold mine produces just 5 grams of gold on average whereas a tonne of discarded cell phones can yield 150 grams or more. For a single phone, the precious metal content is in the order of 250 mg of silver, 24 mg of gold, 9 mg of palladium and 9 g of copper. The Li-Ion battery contains about 3.5 g of cobalt.
Doesn’t appear to amount to much? Take into account the 1.2 billion mobile phones sold globally in 2007. If you add in PC’s and Laptops which were of a similar order of magnitude, the combined unit sales of mobile phones and personal computers add up to a whopping 3% of the world’s mine supply of gold and silver, 13% of its palladium and 15% of its cobalt.
Although we do not handle consumer electronics at Peel Scrap Metal, we do handle the recycling of communications cable, circuit boards and other end-of life communications and telecommunications equipment which we receive on a regular basis from individuals and from industry. Where other contractors are involved for further processing, we do our utmost to ensure they are appropriate ISO standard and the de-manufacturing is environmentally friendly.
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