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IT Recycling: Hoarding Old Mobile Phones

There is an electronic gadget hoarding epidemic across the U.K., with as many as 40 million unused electronic gadgets - including smartphones - sitting idle.

It is estimated that about 500,000 tonnes of electronic waste is recycled properly according to WEEE regulations every year, but this is only a fraction of the overall electronic waste accumulating in homes and offices, or being sent to landfill. These waste electronics are not only taking up important storage space, but on a grander and not insignificant scale, this hoarding is delaying progress in developing the next generation of electronic devices. This is unsustainable, particularly as consumption and demand grow.

The Elements in a Smartphone

Elisabeth Ratcliffe from the Royal Society of Chemistry confirms “there are about 30 different elements just in a smartphone, and many of them are very rare”. Indium tin oxide, a compound formed from the metal Indium, is integral for touch screen operation due to it’s transparency and electrical conductivity, but it's a finite resource and approximately one kilo of ore must be mined to retrieve just a few milligrams of the metal. Smartphones also contain the metal Tantalum which is highly corrosive-resistant, however scientists believe both Tantalum and Indium mines could be depleted within a century, or less, as consumption and demand increase.

Finite Resources

Smartphones are a hallmark of technological advance, but these finite elements and materials aren’t exclusive to handheld devices. Lots of other important equipment relies on these components to operate, and the lower the supply - or the more of these elements are tied up in smartphones that are not even being used any more - the more difficult and expensive the components are to obtain. 

Smartphones contain, among other elements, Gallium, Arsenic, Silver, and Yttrium. Gallium is used in medical thermometers and solar panels and has also been found to have anti-cancer properties. Indium can also be used in solar panels, and in fire sprinkler systems. Tantalum is often found in pacemakers and hearing aids. 

By preserving and re-purposing these key elements from redundant mobile phones, we can reduce the cost of producing these important items, and support progress in developing safer and more environmentally friendly technology. This is why it is so important to ensure electronic devices are recycled in the right way. 

WEEE Recycling

CCL (North) Ltd. is founded on positive environmental impact - from our low-emissions van fleet to energy efficient processes and services, we understand the difference that a small step can make to the larger picture. Taking the time to properly recycle electronics may not seem significant on an individual basis, but if some percentage of the estimated 40 million unused devices were to be recycled and repurposed, the overall impact on the environment would be overwhelming. 

If your organisation has stock-piled old smartphones or other redundant electronics, perhaps because you are not sure how to securely dispose of them, get in touch today to arrange a hassle-free collection.

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