The environmental impacts of mobile phones

When you recycle your mobile phone with RE:MOBILE over 95 percent of the materials that make up your mobile phone will be reused.

The recycled parts can be used in new electronic devices and to make things like jewellery, coins and medals.

By recycling your mobile phone instead of throwing it away, you are contributing to a circular economy, which means that the resources can be used over and over again. This reduces the need for new materials to be mined and manufactured.

Recycled phone parts can be used to make things like jewellery, coins and medals

Mining for mobile phones

Most of the materials in your mobile phone are metals or other elements which can only be sourced by mining.

While mining provides us with many of the elements we need, some mining projects can cause water pollution, erosion, deforestation and harm the animals and plants in the area. It may also cause conflict, force people to move from their homes and may post health risks, such as exposure to air pollution.

A better alternative is ‘urban mining’, which means extracting the metals from unwanted mobile phones and other electronic waste, rather than extracting them from the earth. Reclaiming these metals from mobile phones is much less energy intensive and more environmentally friendly than mining new ones from the earth.

In fact, the concentration of metals like copper, silver, gold and palladium in unwanted mobile phones is much higher than the concentration of them in ore. For example, one tonne of iPhones would deliver 300 times more gold than a tonne of gold ore.  This means that it is more efficient and worthwhile to extract them from mobile phones than from the earth.


It is estimated that there are currently 4,000 tonnes of silver, 380 tonnes of gold and 200,000 tonnes of copper imprisoned in unused mobile phones around the world.

The carbon footprint of a mobile phone

All objects and activities have a carbon footprint, and your mobile phone is no different.

While it does require energy to keep your phone charged and to make calls, send messages and watch videos, most of the energy that a mobile phone requires is for its production, not its everyday use.

Making a smartphone accounts for 85 to 95 percent of its annual carbon footprint due to the energy-intensive mining and manufacturing that is required to transform over 20 elements into a handheld electronic device.

Donating your unwanted mobile phone to RE:MOBILE helps to reduce carbon emissions in two ways.

Firstly, phones that are refurbished and are on-sold to be used again get more life out of the device and the energy used to create it. This reduces the demand for new handsets to be manufactured, meaning less phones need to be produced.

Secondly, phones that are recycled are broken down into parts which can be reused in new devices. This reduces the mining needed to extract these materials from the earth and the energy associated with transporting and manufacturing them.