Gold in your phone

Gold in your phone

You may not know it, but parts of your mobile phone are made of gold.

But before you rush to the pawnshop, here is the bad news - you would need about 100,000 phones to remove 1kg of gold.

Gold is just one of the recyclable materials that can be extracted from e-waste, or discarded electronic devices such as computers, TVs and mobile phones.

On Tuesday, workers at TES-AMM Recycling Plant Facility, a professional electrical and electronic waste recycler, showed members of the press how gold can be extracted and turned into 1kg ingots, worth around $50,000 each.

The demonstration was part of the launch of a new partnership between TES-AMM, telco StarHub and logistics company DHL to expand Singapore's e-waste recycling programme.

But it is not as lucrative as you might think.

Officials at TES-AMM said that extracting gold is an expensive process and they need to process a large amount of e-waste just to get a little bit of gold. So they do not do it often.

But there are many other materials that can be extracted from e-waste.

Said Mr Alfred Hee, marketing manager of TES-AMM: "Recycling you phone creates a sustainable platform for environment and technology to co-exist.

"For instance, the plastic casings or body of the phone can be used to make plastic chairs and tables.

"Gold from the circuit boards could become a ring, the protective rubber surfaces may be used to build a playground.

"Even non-recoverable parts may be used to generate fuel."


Circuit board

Plastic and metal can be recycled from electronic circuit boards. Each board yields a tiny amount of metal, which has to be accumulated before casting can be performed. The plastic can be recycled and reused to make plastic pallets.


Rubber from the phone can be used to make the surface of a playground.


The recycling process will pulverise the plastic, which can be made into other plastic products such as a calculator, pen or ruler.


Lithium is a highly reactive and flammable metal. It needs to undergo chemical extraction before it can be reused as a battery.


Glass that is extracted can be used as fuel for incineration.

E-waste recycling stages

1. Sorting: Items that arrive at the recycling centre are sorted according to device type.

2. Dismantling: The items are dismantled into smaller parts. Different materials are recycled in different ways.

3. Crushing: Larger items, such as circuit boards, are crushed into smaller pieces.

4. Pulverising: The crushed pieces are pulverised into powder. Larger pieces that are not pulverised are sifted out and sent back into the pulveriser.

5. Electrostatic separation: An electric charge is passed through the powder. Metals are separated from non-metals, e.g. plastic.

This article was first published on Sep 18, 2014.
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