Metal value of Old Mobile Phones: 240 Million Euros
Recycle instead of drawers: Old smartphones are part of the so-called urban mine. According to the study, the total mineral value of unused mobile phones in Germany is 240 million euros.
When a smartphone goes through its day, it often ends up in a drawer – “you can always use it again”. According to the Bitkom Digital Association, around 210 million old mobile phones were stored in homes in Germany last year.
87% of citizens have at least one cell phone thrown away. This number has doubled since 2015.
Old Mobile Phones can Cover the Physical needs of New Smartphones for 10 Years
There is currently a fair amount of gold in the German drawers. In a 2020 study, Britta Bocagin from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and her colleagues came to the conclusion that the approximately 200 million smartphones in German drawers contain, among other things, around 3.4 tons of gold and 1,300 tons. Of copper and 520 tons of nickel bonded.
The metal from scrapped cell phones in Germany is enough to cover the hardware needs of smartphones for the next 10 years – in purely arithmetic terms. This is the result of a study conducted by the German Institute of Economics in Cologne.
Thus, the total mineral value of unused mobile phones in the Federal Republic of Germany is approximately 240 million euros. The material value of smartphones sold in 2021 is 23.5 million euros.
However, the authors point out that the reality is different, “because not all tray cell phones are recycled and they are also fully recyclable.”
Bookhagen wants Better Data
Mobile phones with drawers belong to the so-called urban mine, where one considers the deposits of raw materials contained in products that have already been used. Britta Bookhagen from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) is qualified:
“It is very difficult to estimate which raw materials will come back to us, how and when.”
On the other hand, it is not known how much steel or aluminum was used in a car or a washing machine 50 years ago, nor how it makes sense to restore and treat it. Better data is needed here.
Urban Mines: A Future Source of Secondary Raw Materials
When strategically considering an urban mine, it does not initially matter “whether the raw materials are still actively in use and will only be released in the foreseeable future or whether they have already reached the end of their useful life”, writes l Federal Environment Agency (UBA) on their website.
Metals, and construction metals in particular, often stay in infrastructure, buildings and commodities for a long time.
“In this way, huge stocks of materials have been accumulated over decades, which have great potential as a future source of secondary raw materials.”
According to the UBA, the German economy uses around 1.3 billion tonnes of materials domestically every year – this includes products such as cars as well as pure raw materials. The Federal Republic of Germany is heavily dependent on imports, especially for mineral raw materials and energy, as evidenced by the latest BGR Raw Materials Report from December.
Recycling Metals Preserves the Earth’s Resources
But: global raw materials are limited, international competition is intensifying, costs are rising – as is the pressure on landscapes and their ecosystems.
Thus, recycling metals or building materials, for example, can help preserve the Earth’s natural resources – and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater pollution and biodiversity loss. , explains Felix Müller, responsible for urban mining at the federal level. Environmental Agency.