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.

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Will Precious Metals Disappear from Electronic Devices in the Coming Years?
Why Recycling Precious Metals Should Be Done by Professionals

How Much Platinum Does Your Platinum Jewelry Really Contain?

If you have pieces of platinum jewelry that you’re thinking of recycling, how much platinum do they contain? Here’s some information from the Federal Trade Commission that can help you know.

Don’t Rely on Information that Is on the Packaging

Even if your platinum items are packaged in boxes or other packaging that states that they are made of platinum, don’t believe it unless the items themselves are stamped with markings like “platinum,” “plat” or “pt.”

Understanding the Markings on Pieces of Platinum Jewelry

Shown: Jewelry and jewelry scrap containing platinum and other platinum group metals that Specialty Metals recycles and refines.

If an item is simply stamped as “platinum,” “plat,” or “pt.” with no other markings, that means that it contains at least 95% pure platinum - if it was legally sold in America.

If it is stamped with a marking like “850Plat,” that means that it contains 85% pure platinum.

Sometimes stampings will indicate the other metals that are present in the jewelry too. For example:

  • 800 Pt. 200 Pd. indicates 80% pure platinum and 20% palladium
  • 750 Pt. 250 Rh. Indicates 75% pure platinum and 25% rhodium
  • 600 Pt. 350 Ir. Indicates 60% pure platinum and 35% iridium

What Other Metals Could Platinum Jewelry Contain?

According to the FTC, jewelry that is marked “platinum” could contain:

  • Other platinum group metals such as iridium, osmium, rhodium, or ruthenium
  • Base metals such a copper or cobalt

Not Sure What You Have?

If you own a quantity of jewelry that you think is made of platinum but which has no markings, what does that mean? There are several possibilities. It could have been manufactured for sale in other countries, for example. It could have been made before current labeling standards were enforced. Or it could have been improperly stamped by the manufacturer.

If your items are not marked, you would be well advised to call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, a qualified platinum refiner, for testing. Call 800-426-2344 to learn more.

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Non-Automotive Catalytic Converters Contain Precious Metals Too

As we’ve noted in previous posts, automotive catalytic converters contain platinum, palladium, rhodium, nickel, and other metals that can be profitably extracted by precious metals refineries. If you have 500 or more catalytic converters that you would like to recycle, you could get a surprisingly large amount of money in return.

Let’s open our lens a bit wider today, because catalytic converters are not found only in cars. They are also used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications. And because industrial-grade catalytic converters are generally larger than those that are used in cars, they can contain even larger quantities of precious metals that can be recycled and refined.

Where to Look for Industrial Catalytic Converters

Catalytic Converters like this one for a hospital diesel generator can contain large quantities of precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium. Image courtesy of Governor Control Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Catalytic Converters like this one for a hospital diesel generator can contain large quantities of precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium. Image courtesy of Governor Control Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

  • Portable generators
  • Road grading and paving equipment
  • Industrial-grade mowing equipment
  • Fork lifts and equipment-moving vehicles
  • Tree removal and property clearing equipment
  • Drilling and well-digging machines
  • Pile drivers and bridge-building machinery
  • Cranes and lifting equipment
  • Construction equipment
  • Air compressors
  • Portable heaters used at construction sites
  • Diesel-and gas powered production line and manufacturing equipment

If you have the opportunity to collect used catalytic converters from those sources, you should. Like the smaller converters recycled from automobiles, they contain valuable quantities of precious metals. If you’ve been overlooking this resource, call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344 to learn more.

Related Posts:

What Precious Metals are Inside Catalytic Converters and What Are They Worth?
How to Eliminate the Middleman and Make More Money from Your Used Catalytic Converters
How to Pick the Best Precious Metals Recycling Company