As people constantly search the internet or send text messages on their smart phone (because who uses one to make actual phone calls any way?) few consider the vast number of raw materials that exist inside this device. Christian Hagelüken from the Umicore Material Technology Group (Umicore), an urban recycling firm based in Germany, explains that smart phones contain “half the periodic table.” Specifically, smart phones contain precious metals like gold (about 1/1000 of an ounce), silver, and palladium. Despite the amazing amount of technology inside this seemingly indispensable technological device — it is like most things in a throw-away society — dispensable. Each year consumers throw away 130 million smart phones. Given the cost of gold (about $1,400 per ounce) that would amount to $182 million worth of gold! Consider that with conventional mining, one ton of ore yields about 5 grams of gold. The ten billion smart phones sold to date would yield approximately 240 tons of gold, 2,500 tons of silver, and 90 tons of palladium — that precious metal is quite previous indeed: $16.3 trillion worth! This gives the cry of the rugged old gold prospectors (“There’s gold in them there hills”) an entirely new meaning.
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