Scientists at the University of Lorraine in France have set an ambitious target of collecting 10 000 used mobile phones before next February to develop a precious metals recycling breakthrough.
The three-year R&D project is looking to make the extraction of metals from mobile phone circuit boards more efficient and economically viable. Ultimately, the objective is to establish a dedicated e-scrap recycling facility. Lead researcher Éric Meux says the team wants to improve printed circuit board recycling to recover gold, silver, copper and palladium. He is calling on students and local residents to drop off their unwanted phones at collection points in the area operated by the non-profit collection service EcoSystem.
It is estimated that only six to nine million end-of-life phones are recycled while 20 million phones are bought every year. This leaves around 100 million used phones ‘gathering dust’ at home if they have not already been sent to landfill.
Meux points out that the average phone weighs 200g meaning thousands of tonnes of precious metals are potentially trapped in ‘forgotten’ devices. Researchers believe that once 10 000 used mobile phones have been collected, all the necessary tools will be available to develop an effective process for identifying, recovering, separating and recycling the precious metals.