The Changing World of Investing in Old Cellphones

The Changing World of Investing in Old Cellphones

According to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, a million cellphones contain about 75 pounds of gold, 33 pounds of palladium . . . and 770 pounds of silver. That might seem like a lot of precious metal to you, or it might seem like a small amount when you consider that you have to recycle a million phones to access it. But here’s another statistic that makes it seem like it might not be that difficult to get your hands on a million phones:

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Metal-Hunting Season Is Starting Just as Swimming Season Ends

Metal-Hunting Season Is Starting Just as Swimming Season Ends

That’s why this could be a very profitable season to go looking for valuable items that people have lost during the summer months. Rings, watches, cellphones and other stuff is out there waiting for you, so let’s review some of the strategies that can help you find them. 

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Why Recycling Metals is Socially and Environmentally Responsible

Why Recycling Metals is Socially and Environmentally Responsible

We’ve published posts in the past about why recycling gold is socially responsible. Recycled gold doesn’t have to be mined, and mining pollutes air and water and burns fossil fuels. And then there’s the fact that recycled gold is not dug from the earth by underpaid, exploited workers. Of course, it is possible that the gold that we recycle from computer motherboards, old jewelry and other sources does have a “dirty” past – because gold doesn’t have DNA, it is impossible to know whether it originally came from a mine in Africa or from ancient amulets that were stolen from the Aztecs. But even if that is the case, the gold that we recycle today is generations removed from any dirty sources and less closely linked to environmental or societal ills. 

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8 Explosive Facts about Lithium

8 Explosive Facts about Lithium

Someone called one of our expert consultants at 800-426-2344 last week and asked, “Is lithium a precious metal?” He had a lot of old printed-circuit boards that had batteries attached to them and was wondering if he would get paid for the lithium that they contained if he sent them in to be recycled.

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There’s Gold (and Silver and Other Valuable Stuff) in iPhones

There’s Gold (and Silver and Other Valuable Stuff) in iPhones

Yes, it is true, according to data compiled by 911Metallurgist.com. In fact, a ton of used iPhones contains 324 times more gold than a ton of gold ore does. A ton of iPhones also contains 13 times more copper than a ton of copper ore does, and 6.5 times more silver than a ton of silver ore does. So the message seems to be that as demand for precious metals remains high, recycling phones is a practice that is not about to go away.

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How Much Money Can You Make by Recycling Computers, Cellphones, Catalytic Converters, and other Popular Items?

How Much Money Can You Make by Recycling Computers, Cellphones, Catalytic Converters, and other Popular Items?

We get many calls at Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners from people who have cellphones, catalytic converters, computers, remote control devices, and other items that contain precious metals that can be extracted and refined. The first question that those callers ask is usually, “How much are they worth?” And the first question that we usually ask them is, “How many do you have?”

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How Are Precious Metals Recovered from Electronic Scrap?

If you have old cellphones, computers, or other electronic devices, you probably have some questions about how you can make the most money by recycling them. Here is a basic rule of thumb to keep in mind . . .

If the process that is used to extract the precious metals in those devices is too costly, the devices might not be worth recycling at all

Shown: electronic scrap gold plated pins sent to Specialty Metals by our customers for recycling and refining.

Shown: electronic scrap gold plated pins sent to Specialty Metals by our customers for recycling and refining.

It Makes Sense . . .

If you spend time with a pair of snippers removing the gold connecting pins from old computer CPUs and forward those pins to a top precious metals refinery like Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, you will get a high dollar return for every ounce of those pins that you send in. It makes sense, because comparatively little processing is required to separate the gold that those pins contain from other metals and contaminating materials. In contrast, if you contact us and ask about several hundred intact cellphones that you would like to recycle, you might learn that the cost of processing those phones is higher than the value of the precious metals that they contain. After all, one cellphone usually contains only a few cents’ worth of gold.

For a bit of perspective, here is a brief rundown on the different processes that are typically used by precious metal refiners to extract gold, silver, platinum and palladium from electronic scrap, or E-Scrap, as it is called in the recycling business.

Whole Device Refurbishing or Remanufacturing

This is a recycling option that can only be used for current-model smart phones and other devices that can still have use if they are refurbished by the manufacturer or another company.

Extracted-Component Recycling

The case study we cited above – the recycling of gold pins that have physically been removed from electronic devices – is a good example. If you do the physical work of removing components that contain valuable quantities of precious metals, you will get a higher dollar return for every ounce of material that you send in to be recycled.

Shredding, Granulating, Heat Processing and Other Industrial Recycling

These processes are done by large industrial recycling companies that grind up circuit boards and components and use a variety of processes to separate and extract the materials that they contain. Shredded printed circuit boards, for example, can have their ferrous materials removed by magnets, then that residue can be sifted and searched for precious metals, then that residue can be melted so that plastics can be recycled and used in other products.

Which Process Will Yield the Most Value?

As you have already observed, the “purer” recycling options (like extracted component recycling) are likely to put more dollars in your pocket than are the “dirtier” options (like shredding and granulating).

Not sure which is the best way to get the most value from your E-Scrap? Give us a call at 800-426-2344 and we’ll be pleased to explain what your best options are.

Related Posts:

A Brief History of Circuit Boards and the Gold They Contain
Do Tablet Computers Contain Recyclable Precious Metals
Watch the Gold You Can Recycle from Circuit Boards Pile Up in these Videos
Extracting Gold from Ceramic IC Chips
Four Kinds of Easy-to-Overlook Electronic Devices that Contain Gold

As Gold Supplies Dwindle, Demand for Recyclable Gold Will Remain High

“The World Is Running Out of Gold,” a post that Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan wrote for Gizmodo, reports that most of the extractable gold that occurs in nature has already been mined.

Here’s what Campbell-Dollaghan reports . . .

Photo of a miner with a gold nugget used for everything from jewelry to dental scrap to circuit boards, which can all be recycled by Specialty Metals.
  • Mining companies are already digging deeper and deeper to find gold. Many of the places in the world where it lies close to the surface are found in arctic areas where mining is prohibitively difficult and costly.
  • Gold is getting scarcer. In one instance, a mining company had to blast away 100 metric tons of rock to extract one ounce of gold.
  • New finds are rarer. Back in 1995, 22 gold deposits were found that contained at least two million ounces of gold. There were only six such discoveries in 2010, and none in 2012.
  • The gold that’s in your cellphone might be the same gold that was in an ancient Roman or Greek coin. It might have gotten smelted into a bar a few hundred years ago, then used in jewelry, and finally used to make your iPhone or Android. Most of the gold that has ever been mined has been used over and over again.

Yet People Continue to Toss Gold Away

As we reporting in a recent post, as many as 89% of old smartphones are simply tossed by their owners, who don’t want to take the trouble to recycle them. Similarly, people toss old desktop computers, televisions, radios and other devices with printed circuit boards that contain small quantities of recyclable gold.

It doesn’t make much sense, does it? As gold supplies dwindle, people just toss it away.

If you have a quantity of old items that contain gold – from phones to jewelry to used gold sputtering targets – remember that they could be worth more than you think, even if they only contain small amounts of gold. Call us at 800-426-2344. With worldwide supplies of gold dwindling, the demand for this most fabled of precious metals is not about to go away soon.

Related Posts:

Is it Worth Recycling Smartphones
There Could Be More Gold in Old Commemoratives and Trophies than You Think
Where Is the Gold Hiding in Your Old Computers?
Where Are Precious Metals Hiding in Junked Cars
3 Simple Steps: How to Find the Best Gold Refiner

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