Mobile phone technology has been continuously developing and improving for decades, and with new and better handsets being released each year, many of us routinely replace our devices. With the average phone contract lasting two years, most people will go through many devices in their lifetimes, resulting in thousands of old phones being thrown away every day, generating millions of tons of e-waste.
We all want to stay connected with one another and have a device that features the latest technology, but how do we do this whilst remaining conscious of the effects our old and new phones have on the planet? Today, we’re looking at why recycling your old phone is good for the planet and what you can do to ensure your old devices don’t end up in a landfill.
The Raw Materials That Make Up a Phone
Over 1.4 billion phones are manufactured every year, and many new device purchases will replace an older model. Making just one handset requires between 10 and 15kg of metal ore, meaning that millions of tons of ore are mined each year for phone production. The metal ores mined for use in new phones include:
- High-grade gold
Mining for new metal ore uses energy and depletes the planet’s mineral reserves, many of which are already becoming scarce. By selling your mobile for recycling, it can be stripped of its materials, and the various metals inside the device can be extracted and melted down into new metal, curbing the need for mining ore.
The materials recovered from old devices can go on to be reused in manufacturing, electronics, jewellery, and many other industries. Even plastic parts of the device can be recycled into new plastic products such as furniture and packaging.
Preserving the Environment
While there are many materials in old mobile phones that are recyclable and valuable for use in future products, there are also many toxic elements that can harm the environment and parts that will not naturally decompose if the phone is sent to a landfill. Amongst many other toxic materials, mobile phones can contain:
Improper disposal of old devices could result in these hazardous substances entering the environment and damaging the ecosystem. For example, toxins that leak from discarded phones can pollute the surrounding land and water, posing a risk to wildlife and humans alike. When you sell your device, for example, by trading in your iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 11 Pro or another make and model with Mazuma, if the phone can’t be refurbished, the harmful elements will either be recycled or correctly disposed of in a way that doesn’t impact negatively on the environment.
E-waste is electronic products that are either nearing the end of their usable life, no longer working, or not wanted. The term encompasses everything from computers to DVD players, fax machines and televisions, and also includes mobile phones.
Every year, 50 million tonnes of e-waste is produced worldwide, and 1.2 million tonnes of that waste comes from the UK (enough to fill Wembley Stadium over 6 times!). Perhaps even more shocking is that half the e-waste in the world could easily be repaired, recycled or reduced but often ends up in landfill.
Disposing of e-waste is challenging for many reasons. The more we advance technologically, the more e-waste we generate as people seek to replace their outdated devices with the latest tech, with smartphones and laptops being the most prevalent examples of devices we routinely replace.
E-waste can be complicated to dispose of correctly. With many intricate parts made of multiple materials, deconstructing old devices into recyclable parts can be challenging. Still, we must either reuse or recycle old phones and other electronics to divert them away from landfills and reduce the demand for new devices. So if you’re wondering what to do with your old mobile to prevent it from ending up in a landfill site, consider giving it to a friend or family member who could use it or sell it to us at Mazuma Mobile. We’ll make sure it’s either refurbished, reused or recycled correctly.
Conserving Energy, Materials and Reducing Greenhouse Gases
It’s thought that 5417 recycled mobile phones save enough energy to power a standard home for an entire year, and even a single recycled handset could save enough energy to power a laptop for nearly two days.
Phones may be small, and you may think that the couple of old handsets you’ve got lying around your home won’t have much impact, but the energy, raw materials, and recourses we can save when we all recycle or reuse our old devices are huge.
To put it into context, the average production of a single smartphone results in 3190 gallons of water being used, 49KGs of CO2 emissions, and, as we’ve discussed, the consumption of precious metals like gold and silver. For every phone we can reuse or refurbish, we negate the need for a new device to be manufactured, saving on water, cutting CO2 emissions and preserving natural resources.
Valuable and highly useable metals such as gold, silver and palladium can all be recovered from obsolete or unwanted devices. This impacts more than just the phone manufacturing industry, as metals are in demand worldwide. Reducing the amount of metal ore we need to mine to keep up with demand also contributes to reducing emissions from transportation and material processes, which helps reduce greenhouse gases.
How Mazuma Can Help
Mazuma Mobile is the largest mobile phone recycler in the UK, and we’re on a mission to make sure the millions of old mobile phones, laptops, tablets and game consoles people have lying around their homes don’t end up as e-waste in landfill sites. The average household has sixty items of unused or obsolete tech, and our aim is to save all those devices from becoming e-waste that could harm the environment.
We’ve been recycling phones for 16 years, and on average, we receive over 20,000 new devices every month. We’re able to rehome over 95% of them, usually by extending the life of a device and giving it a new owner. When you sell an iPhone 13 Pro Max or other models and makes to us, we clean, repair and replace any parts that aren’t working and then rehome it using the following platforms:
- Mazuma Shop
- High street retailers
- Insurance companies
For devices we can’t refurbish or repair, we break them down and recycle the various elements. We’ve even got a scientist working on a bioleaching project, which means we’re finding ways to extract precious metals from old phones using microorganisms (living bacteria).
How You Can Help
Most of us will upgrade to a new mobile every 24 months, and over the years, you’ll undoubtedly accumulate many old devices. Knowing you can sell iPhone 11 Pros, sell iPhone 12 Pros and many other makes and models to ensure they don’t wind up in a landfill is the best way to help curb the detrimental effects of e-waste. The simple answer is to dig out all those old devices and turn them in for cash! There are some key things to do before recycling your phone, like removing the SIM card and performing a factory reset. Once your device is prepped, visit sell my phone and find out how you can get money when you sell iPhone 13 Pros and more, whilst also protecting the environment.