Recycling Gold (and other stuff) from Your Cellphone
UK's BBC produced a short video showing
what goes on in the cellphone recycling center operated in south London. I was surprised to see the amount of manual
labor that goes into processing each device. Shipments of 20-to-30 thousand handsets are received each month from
all over the world. The first step is to classify each phone for dispositioning either for resale to 3rd-world countries,
for cannibalization for useful working parts, or for junking after removing hazardous components and precious metals.
Phones are sorted by make and model, then electrically tested for degree of functionality. Having disassembled quite
a few handsets in my days of competitive analysis, I can tell you that doing so without harming components can take
skill that is only acquired through experience. Since everything from the outer plastic case components to the LCD
can be resold, it is imperative that tool marks are not left on the pieces. Camera modules, ringer / speaker modules,
batteries, SIM cards, and even motherboards are resold to repair shops and individuals. The average value of gold
reclaimed in a cellphone is "north of 2 pounds" (~$3US). Many other metals are reclaimed in the smelting process
as well. I hope none of the electronics contained in the phone used in the video are resold because the chap doing
the demonstration had not a lick of ESD protection in use during handling.