Mobile Phones Yield Valuable Raw Materials
In a recycling process a mobile phone gets a new lease on life. About 65-80 per cent of the material content of a mobile phone can be recycled and reused. In addition, recyclers recover energy by using the plastics as fuel. This can raise the total recovery rate up to 90 per cent.
A mobile phone or accessory deposited in a recycling bin is shredded. It is common for the crushed phones to be collected from several small recycling facilities for delivery to a smelter by land and sea. The trucks and boats transporting the electronic scrap then carry processed metals on the return trip, maximizing the use of capacity. The crushed material includes metals, plastics and ceramics. The loads are analyzed, and the price of the mixture is estimated. The prices of gold, silver and palladium as well as platinum and copper have a big influence on the total price.
Plastics Become Fuel
Plastics are still considered as side flow. Recycling infrastructure has not been fully developed yet. Also, collected plastics often include impurities like stickers, glue, paints or incompatible plastics, and cannot therefore be reused in demanding processes. However, plastics can be recycled to make for instance plastic benches or fences. Due to their high thermal value, most plastics are currently used as fuel replacing, for example, oil. Some plastics are still landfilled.
Maximum Recovery from Metals
The metals contained in a mobile phone can be successfully recycled. The first stage of recovery is separation of the shredded metals into different fractions. Aluminum, ferrous metal and copper fractions are sold to metal refineries. In the refinery, metals are smelted and purified and necessary alloying elements are added. The finished metal ingots can be sold again for production of new parts.
Printed wiring boards are treated in the copper smelter. In the process, copper and precious metal fractions are smelted and then taken for anode casting and electrolytic refining, which separates copper from the rest of the materials. The remaining precious metal sludge containing gold, palladium and platinum is sent to precious metals plants for recovery.
The metals are sold directly to customers or through metal exchanges. About 40% of the raw materials used by the metal industry are recycled materials. Recycling of metals saves 60-90% of the energy required for mining and dressing metal from ore. The metals from mobile phones can end up, for instance, in copper roofs or ski bindings.