Old cell phones pose multi-million dollar treasure

01.04.2012 – Old cell phones pose multi-million dollar treasure

Million old mobile phones lying in drawers and cupboards. Industrial policy and want to use the devices at last. 80 Percent of the raw materials in old cell phones can be recycled.

He is probably one of the least secure Germany's treasures, yet it is immensely valuable. Almost two tons of gold hoard the Germans in their drawers – without knowing it. The precious precious metal hidden in more than 80 Millions of old and disused mobile phones, each of which contributes nearly 25 Milligrammes of gold in the. Overall, it has a value of approximately 80 Million €. And yet the owners refuse, surrendered their equipment.

For years, industry and political struggle, to get at the treasure-Mobile. In vain. It is estimated that only three percent of all mobile phones are recycled. “cell phones, which are no longer needed, are a real commodity storage”, said the State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Environment, Katherina Reiche (CDU). In fact, gold is just one of about 60 Raw materials, types used in mobile phones. 80 Percent of which can be recycled, including silver and copper. Stuck in a million mobile phones 150 Kilograms of silver and several tons of copper.

Even though, the quantities of raw materials in every single cell phone rather low, in total but it could make a significant contribution to the economical use of scarce resources, says Bernhard Rohleder, the chief executive of the high-tech association Bitkom. In addition to gold, Silver and copper require the mobile phone manufacturer also lead, Nickel, Bismuth, Zinn, Antimony or iridium. Currently disappear about three percent of the global silver- and four percent of gold production in the mobile phones and computers.

A cell phone is on average every 18 to 24 Months, whichever. According to a representative survey of Bitkom lands a large proportion of discarded equipment in the drawers, about one in four will be given away. Last year alone, were the world according to market researcher Gartner almost 1,8 Billion mobile phones sold. Currently, users replace their devices, especially for the Internet-compatible smartphones. The most recent survey of Bitkom revealed a backlog of old mobile phone 83 Million units in the Federal Republic, 15 Percent more than last year.

The mobile industry has long since fallen into dependency, over which it is not at all happy. Example, rare earth: You are more than 95 Percent won in China, including the built-in mobile phones, yttrium and europium. Global buyers feel by Chinese export quotas, Minimum prices and tariffs discriminated.

In Germany, a directive is valid for old phones
Reasons why the U.S. has put forward a complaint with the WTO against China, Europe supports the approach. Another example is coltan: Manufacturers need the raw ore, therefrom to produce tantalum, which is used for the production of mobile phone capacitors. Coltan is mined in central Africa but, sometimes illegally – in areas, where mountain gorillas are threatened or where civil wars rage. Toil in the mines often children and teenagers.

Politicians and industry strive, To reduce this dependence. Increasing raw material shortages and rising prices for gold and copper, for example, can appear before all the recycling as a possible way out. There are laws for it to satisfy.

Shall apply in Germany, long a product responsibility for old phones, the proper collection and recycling and regulates both the producers and the marketers take responsibility. In the EU, a directive regulates, that in a few years 85 Percent of electronic waste to be collected. Recycling yards, take the equipment contrary to free.

Mobile operators promote return
The mobile operator in Germany ensnare their customers in the hope of the old mobile phones. Who wants to get rid of his device, it can in the shops of telecom, Vodafone, Telefónica O2, E-Plus and Mobilcom-Debitel deliver free of charge via the Internet or order postage-paid envelopes and then put the phone in the mailbox. Larger quantities can pick up the mobile operator packet services on the doorstep.

As an incentive to promise the network operator, donation to any mobile phone or a fixed amount of the proceeds from recycling to nonprofit organizations. A number of initiatives, including the “Picture”-Charity “A Heart for Children”, Wildlife Protection Society of Germany (NABU), The German Environmental Aid Association and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) benefit. The donations range from one to three euros per old cell phone. “In this way each year millions flowing to charitable organizations”, Bitkom says CEO rawhide.

A large part of the mobile phones will be recycled, but not even, but tested, repaired if necessary and, after the data have been deleted, subsequently resold. Some mobile operators to offer, the old device to accept payment in. You can then appreciate the value of partner companies and either pay or receive a coupon for new phones and airtime.

Used cell phones often end up in Africa
Many of the used equipment end up in markets in Africa, where the number of mobile phone users is still increasing strongly. The Federation of German Waste, Water- and Extractive Industries (BDE) has been fighting for years against the practice of so-called re-use business. “They use a legal gray zone, as the old cell phones before exporting goods and products are not considered as waste and”, says BDE President Peter Kurth.

“Therefore, they are running under the pretext of freedom of movement.” Kurth calls, this “illegal exports” to prevent. It would be much tougher export controls, not only in the ports, but should start already in the field of recycling centers. His argument: Only when the old mobile phones in Germany would be properly recycled, were the raw materials contained in the devices of national and European economies are not lost.

The raw material extraction from old mobile phones even for the recycling business is a challenge. In most cases, the devices are shredded, The granules thus obtained is processed by specialized companies, Then they extract metals and precious metals.

Rare earths are not recyclable
Few companies are capable of. When it comes, to win even the rare earths, the smallest amounts are installed only in, must profusion almost all. Experts say it would take five to ten years, establish a recycling system for rare earths in Europe.

Before there is such a recycling, However, once the consumer would have to be convinced, leave their equipment in place. Although the Bitkom found in his survey, land that only two percent of old phones in the household waste.

But estimates suggest that a much higher number and question the honesty, respond to the consumer on such matters. Many bend the truth, not without reason: In Germany it is illegal, to throw old cell phones in the normal trash. If you are caught, must expect to pay a fine.

Greens want a deposit model for mobile
Finally, the Greens had proposed, to require each mobile phone when purchasing ten euros deposit. A request to have it introduced in March in the Bundestag. “Consumers need a stronger motivation, return their old mobile phone, when they buy a new”, said the spokeswoman for the environmental party, Dorothea Steiner. In four years could be a return rate of 60 Percent seek, in eight years of 80 Percent. The application should be discussed in April at the Environment Committee.

The industry, however, resists this solution. “Mobile phones are no cans”, Bitkom says CEO rawhide. A lien would destroy the existing take-back schemes. In addition, create a deposit system, to be managed over such long periods would, an enormous administrative burden and would be practically difficult to implement, Rohleder says.

The Federal Environment Ministry is worried by such a single-handed disadvantage of the internet retailers in Germany, be ordered over the phone more often. Buyers would then simply order via the Internet its new mobile phone abroad. Without a deposit, But with gold.

(Berliner Morgenpost)

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