1 ton of discarded cell phones will yield more gold than 1 ton of gold ore.

Cell phone recycling , Imagine a pile weighing 17 metric tons , made of gold ores. Yes, ores. Rocks with traces of gold in them. This rock pile will be smaller in volume but will have the same weight as the car pile.

How much gold do you think can be extracted from 17 metric tons of gold ores? Depending on the source from which the ores are mined, a ton of gold ore could yield 0.3 to 5 grams of gold per metric ton. We’re talking about extracting .51 to 85 grams of gold from the our hypothetical ore pile.

Now imagine a much smaller pile weighing just 1 metric ton of cell phones. One ton. Did you know that gold and other precious metals can be recycled from your your cell phone? Compared to the mountainous pile of 17 tons of gold ores, more gold can be recovered from this heap during cell phone recycling than  what can be extracted from 17 tons of gold ores. A ton of cell phones can yield as much as  280 grams of gold, about 140 grams of platinum and palladium, and 140 kilograms of copper. There’s also plastic and glass that can be recycled from used cell phones.

And all this without the waste by-products of traditional gold mining and refining. We’re talking about heavy metals and dangerous chemicals like cyanide, that are normally used or produced during the process of mining and refining. There’s also the geological disturbance – destruction of forests, and ecological niches to make way for gold mines.

Cell phone recycling is done on a huge scale by such companies as Umicore in Belgium, which process unserviceable cell phones and other e-waste, to “surface-mine” precious metals and other materials like gold, silver, platinum, copper, coltan, plastic and glass, etc. The good news is, after the entire recycling process is over, less than half of 1% of the entire electronic waste processed, is deemed unfit to be returned to the production cycle and is then just burned for energy generation.

The precious metals present in each cell phone are basically just trace amounts, so it’s impractical and patently dangerous (because of the industrial chemicals necessary) for you to try and extract these metals from your cell phone at home. It may seem like a joke, but it was in the news last month – a man who fancied himself as an “urban miner” got poisoned by the industrial chemicals he was using, while “mining” cell phones. The giant recycling firms make money by processing tons and tons of cell phones and other electronic waste.

Gold, copper, and platinum are finite resources that will be exhausted in a few years, based on our current rate of extraction. Cell phone recycling offers a viable conservation option as well as a clear positive impact on environmental protection. It’s a win-win option for everyone concerned. The recyclers win in terms of revenues from the recycled precious metals. The cell phone makers win by being assured of a steady stream of raw materials for years to come, ensuring a stable production cost of new products. All of us win in cell phone recycling , by having affordable modern gadgets made available to us and by minimizing the environmental impact of  precious metals extraction.