Manufacturers can take steps to lessen cell phone waste, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News.
Customers will buy more than 1.8 billion new cell phones by the end of this year, and they’ll recycle only 3 percent of them.
Alex Scott, a senior editor at C&EN, notes that there is much to be recovered and re-used from a cell phone. An average mobile contains about 300 mg of silver and 30 mg of gold. When added up across all phones to be sold this year, the two metals alone are worth more than $2.5 billion.
Cell phones are made with a few dozen additional elements, but the most high-tech recycling technology today can only recover about 17 of them at a maximum yield of 95 percent.
The article says one idea dominating efforts to stem e-waste involves improving upon the modular phone idea, which allows users to replace parts but keep the main body of a phone intact. That way, some people could avoid buying whole new phones when they want to upgrade.
Another major piece of a more sustainable mobile culture is the recycling process itself. Scientists are working to make the process greener and more effective at recovering a greater number of elements.
Revenue for the cell phone recycling industry is estimated to increase until 2019, according to an updated report from IBISWorld published last month.
Photo Credit: cell phone waste via Shutterstock