How much and how many metals in mobile phones?

A mobile phone is typically composed of about 40% of plastic, 32% of non-ferrous metal, 20% of glass and ceramics, 3% of ferrous metal and 5% other [1]. Metals referred to in ref [1] are iron, copper (16 g), silver (0.35 g), gold (0.034 g), platinum and palladium.

Ref [2] mentions additionally the use of aluminium, magnesium, tin, cobalt, lead, nickel, cadmium and nickel. The document provides some guidance on best practices for the end-of-life treatment of mobile phones.

Ref [3] refers to total 60 elements being used in mobile phones, mentioning from the metals family (in addition to above metals) tantalum, neodynium and indium. It gives good information about the recycling value-chain and its challenges.

The above three paragraphs list a total of 16 metals used in mobile phones. Based on the total use of 60 elements, and the observation that only 20-30 of the world’s 118 elements are non-metallic, the number of metallic elements used in mobile phones could be as high as 30-40. 

References

[1] http://www.basel.int/Portals/4/download.aspx?d=UNEP-CHW-COP.11-SIDE.01A-Photoexhibition.English.pdf (not dated – checked October 2018)

[2] http://www.basel.int/Implementation/TechnicalAssistance/Partnerships/MPPI/Overview/tabid/3268/Default.aspx (2012 – checked October 2018)

[3] https://www.chemistryworld.com/features/smartphone-recycling/2500497.article (2017 – checked October 2018)

Copper in heating appliances

A European Commission report gives numbers for the stock of conventional heating appliances in the EU that need to be replaced to have a decarbonised heating system. From this source we can conclude that 143 million appliances need to be replaced. These include gas, oil or coal boilers as well as 25 million direct electrical heating systems.

From a Creara report commissioned by European Copper Institute in Feb 2017 (not published), we share the following table showing copper use in heating appliances.

CuIoUAppliances

The market will decide between various decarbonised heating solutions, and ECI takes no view which low-carbon solution should be preferred. Hence, the average copper use shared over the seven low-carbon solutions (two heat pump technologies, biomass boilers, pellet stoves, solar heating, district heating and domestic CHP) is 17 kg per appliance. This is 11 additional kilograms over the copper use in a conventional heating system of 6 kg.

To upgrade Europe’s 143 million conventional heating systems requires therefore 1.6 million tons of copper until 2050. This figure is likely to be an overestimate, since alternative heat conductor materials can be used as well.