Every year, 1.4 billion mobile phones are produced around the world. Many of us have more than one, but what are they made of, where do those materials come from, and what is the best thing to do with our devices once we have no more use for them?
The answers to all those questions are the focus of an eye-catching new project from scientists at the University of Plymouth.
By blending an entire mobile phone to dust, and then conducting a chemical analysis of the dissolved results, they hope to demonstrate why we should all take a keener interest in what is contained within everyday electrical items.
They also want to show the quantities of rare or so-called ‘conflict’ elements each phone contains, and encourage greater recycling rates once the devices reach the end of their useful lives.
The project was conceived by Dr Arjan Dijkstra and Dr Colin Wilkins, geologists from the University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, with their initial interest being sparked by the increasing reliance of high-tech everyday items on rare mineral resources putting new demands on the global mining industry.
They then worked in tandem with Devon-based animation company Real World Visuals to produce a short video which demonstrates the amount and variety of the Earth’s resources used each year in global mobile phone production.