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iPhone: Do not throw away!


The new iPhone is on sale - but what happens to the old one? Far too valuable are the substances contained therein. An overview of the 15 most important elements.


LCD display (from below)

Front cover

Camera (on the back)

Motherboard (with the chips)

vibration module


battery pack

The most important metals


The recycling of aluminum requires significantly less energy than its production. The recycling rate is therefore relatively high.


Dysprosium is indispensable for many electrical appliances. In order to be independent of imports from China, a functioning recycling system is important.


Old tools are often shredded, a magnet then fishes out the iron. Apple disassembles iPhones with a robot and recycles the ingredients separately.


Because it is one of the most valuable materials, you want to win back as much gold as possible. More than 90 percent can now be recycled from smartphones.


It will be years before the heavy metal is recovered industrially from smartphones. This is still too costly both ecologically and economically.


Apple has just started using iPhones recycled cobalt to build new batteries. Generally, however, only little is recovered.


Like gold, copper is now recovering very well. In Germany, around 40 percent of copper demand is already covered by recycling.


Large reserves of raw materials and relatively cheap ways to mine lithium ensure that less than one percent of lithium is recycled worldwide.


Commodity prices for metals are often so low in the EU that recycling is not economically viable - but from an environmental point of view, it can be useful.


From an economic point of view, palladium is one of the few elements besides gold that is already being recycled very profitably.


Currently, a large part is lost in recycling processes. Manufacturers therefore want to improve processes that allow them to recover it economically.


In normal recycling processes, silver has often been lost in the past. Meanwhile, however, the recycling rate for electronic components has increased.


Hardly any of the tantalum that is currently used in electrical appliances is being recovered: it is extremely expensive and therefore economically unattractive.


With conventional recycling methods, tungsten is mostly not recovered, although it is present in relatively large quantities in smartphones.


Tin is one of the most important conflict materials. Often mining or manufacturing are competitive, people are exploited.

Infographic: Matthias Holz, research: Linda Fischer

Sources: Apple, Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology; United Nations Environment Program; Selected sources and links to this topic can be found here.

Note: This graphic of an iPhone 7 is also based on manufacturer information (mostly from Apple). The materials in smartphones vary with each model, the shares are not announced by the manufacturers

Does the new iPhone really need it? ZEIT ONLINE has tested it.

Source: zeit

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