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Phone recycling: Getting the gold from your mobile




What is the fate of your old, surplus mobile phone when you decide to turn it in for recycling? BBC News visited a recycling plant in south London to find out – and the answers might surprise you.

There are more mobile phones than people in the UK. We bought more than 28 million mobile phones in 2012, with that number set to increase this year.

There are good environmental reasons to recycle these old phones, whether they work or not. They contain harmful chemicals, particularly in the batteries, which don’t break down in landfills. They also contain valuable materials that are costly to extract, and can be reused.

And there is a financial motive to do this recycling too, which is why companies like Genuine Solutions Group in south London exist. As the firm’s Peter Johnston explained, the company sifts through thousands of phones each month, sent in by phone companies and charities.

Carefully dismantling the phone, the company harvests the individual parts that still work. The best value resides, Mr Johnston explained, in recovering as many working parts as possible, in order to build new working phones.

Older models that have lost their cachet, may end up being sold on in developing countries. Newer models that have been rebuilt, can be sold to phone networks, or insurance companies who need to replace customer’s phones.

Video Journalist: Dougal Shaw

Statistics from IHS Electronics and Media and OnePoll