Is it Worth Recycling Smartphones?

How much precious metal is contained in smartphones? Is it worth sending them to us for recycling?

These recent statistics, reported by Megan Anderle in The Guardian on May 1, 2014, document the fact that smartphones contain quantities of precious metals. For every million smartphones that are recycled, these quantities of metals can be reclaimed:

Photo of old smartphones that contain gold, silver and palladium that can be recycled profitably in large quantities by Specialty Metals.

When you use those statistics as a guideline against current prices per troy ounce, you find that every smartphone contains about $1.40 worth of gold, about $.58 worth of palladium, and about $.20 worth of silver. (Of course, it costs money to reclaim those metals from smartphones and other electronics scrap too.)

How Many Smartphones Can You Collect and Recycle?

That’s not very much metal per phone. Yet Anderle also cites these statistics:

  • 89% of mobile devices are not recycled by their users, just tossed
  • In 2012, Sprint customers recycled 44% of their phones, Verizon customers recycled 28%, and AT&T customers recycled 11.5%
  • In 2013, Verizon launched a new recycling program and app that got 31% of its customers to recycle their phones

Is There an Opportunity for You in Smartphone Recycling?

If you would like to reclaim a significant amount of money from old smartphones, you will have to collect an awful lot of them. But can you do just that – collect a large number of older phones? Perhaps you can.

  • If you are a charity, perhaps you can start an outreach program to get people to donate their phones to you. As noted in the statistics above, 89% of mobile phone users toss their devices. Perhaps they can toss them into recycling bins that your organization places in stores, malls, before town halls, and elsewhere. If you spread your campaign over a large geographical area, you could be able to collect enough phones to raise a lot of money for your organization.
  • If you want to start a second or primary business, you might consider buying used cellphones and then recycling them. As Anderle notes in her Guardian article, cellphone companies’ buy-back recycling programs often present a number of hassles for customers, who have typically had to get their returns pre-approved, then print out labels to use when shipping their phones in, then wait weeks until the payment for their phones is credited to their accounts. If you can streamline that process – perhaps by letting customers sell you their used phones via a walk-in, no-hassle process – you might be able to amass enough smartphones to generate a good income.

When and if you do, contact Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners. We’ll be pleased to help you dig out the dollars that are hiding in a quantity of used cellphones and other escrap.

Related Posts:

Attention Recycling Centers: These Often-Overlooked Items Can Generate Big Income for Your Town
Do Tablet Computers Contain Recyclable Precious Metals
Will Precious Metals Disappear from Electronic Devices in the Coming Years?
Why Recycling Precious Metals Should Be Done by Professionals