How to recycle your old mobile well
If you collected a million mobile phones you could accumulate 24 kilos of gold, 16,000 of copper, 350 of silver and 14 of palladium. It is, basically, the amount of resources that the organizations in charge of recycling these terminals end up recovering and returning to the production cycle, thus avoiding extracting new supplies and damaging the environment.
In our country, Royal Decree 110/2015 of February 20, 2015, on electrical and electronic equipment and waste management, establishes that the producers of these devices are obliged to adopt the necessary measures so that the waste of their products is collected selectively and have proper environmental management, to finance the costs of such management and to register in the National Registry of Products of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (REI-WEEE).
For this reason, all manufacturers are obliged to pick up your old terminal when you decide to buy a new one, whether you go to one of their stores or any of their distributors.
Many of them are reconditioned and resold in second-hand markets, but others end up at recycling plants (where individuals can also take them).
Despite everything, and although many manufacturers offer financial incentives to guarantee the collection of old terminals, the truth is that mobile phones are not recycled as much as other devices, partly for fear of what can be done with the recorded data.
However, it is important to recycle old ‘smartphones’ for the environmental and economic benefits that this simple gesture entails.
What is a mobile made of
At first glance, a phone is a large glass screen, covered in plastic or aluminum, with many electronic components inside. But the truth is that, when analyzed, a mobile is made up of many different components.
Within these are precious and semi-precious metals such as gold, platinum, and palladium, a variety of which can be recycled to form plated components and low-voltage electrical contacts.
Palladium, in particular, plays a key role in the technology used for fuel cells. Metal can also be extracted from batteries. Zinc is also found in the terminals and is used to coat steel, although it can also be mixed with copper to make brass. Ships and submarines, for example, use zinc blocks to stop rust from forming.
As for the plastic, also present, it can be granulated and reformulated for use in moldings. Other valuable components are flash memory devices that can be recovered and degraded. And useful parts that can be reused should be counted: antennas, battery connectors, PCBs (printed circuit boards), connectors that include gold-plated edge contacts on PCBs, ICs (integrated circuits), keyboards, LCD screens, lenses , microphones, phone cases, screws, SIM card assemblies and speakers.
Who is in charge of recycling
In our country, there are several organizations that are dedicated to the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), such as Recyclia or the Ecolec Foundation.
“WEEE is taken to specific recycling plants and, in the first place, the waste is classified and all dangerous components are extracted (oils and gases in the case of a refrigerator and the battery in the case of a mobile phone)”, he explains Rafael Serrano, Director of Institutional Relations, Marketing and Communication of the ECOLEC Foundation.
“After this first step of classification and decontamination, the waste is fragmented and the different materials are separated: ferrous from non-ferrous metals, plastics, etc. Once the different materials have been separated, they can be reintroduced into the production cycle ”, he concludes. And from there, back to our hands.
Within Recycla is the Tragamovil initiative, which is not only dedicated to recycling these devices, but also to promoting awareness of their importance, since, as recognized, in the case of mobile phones, tablets, computers and others Small Information Technology Gadgets There are many factors that discourage citizen recycling, including data security, product value, hard-to-reach return points, and uncertainty about proper recycling, among others.
How is it recycled?
When we decide to deliver an old terminal to recycling centers, stores, or sites set up for it, a process begins that will end with the disassembly of the phone and the recovery of those useful parts.
In a first step, the terminal is removed the batteries, which usually follow their own recycling course. After this, the recyclers begin to shred the mobile phones and, once they have been destroyed, they put them in special ovens that heat them to temperatures that can reach 1,100 degrees.
It is then taken to a reprocessing plant where it is ground into small pieces. Once crushed, and using magnets, ferrous metals, such as steel, are removed, while other non-metallic metals are removed through the use of electronic currents. For its part, plastic is classified into types by various methods, but they are granulated and transformed into other materials.
When shredded mobile phones are heated to such a high temperature, recyclers process the result of the mobile phone using some powerful chemicals. This often results in the reduction of mobile phones to dust, which is often taken to the foundry.
After removing these different materials, the manufacturers transport them to their different departments. Here they are used to do different things for reuse. If they are used to make things that will come into contact with edibles, they are detoxified first. In this way, there is no possibility of harming anyone.