Anatomy of a phone

In 2021 there were 7.1 billion mobile phones world-wide. Of those, 6.4 billion, nearly 90%, are smart phones. Although only 3.8 billion people are smart phone users; many have more than one. Where are the other phones? Some are broken, some stored in a drawer or cupboard, and some on their way to landfill.

Each smart phone contains many parts or components inside the case, including the processor or logic board, cameras (front and back), speakers, screen and LCD display, buttons, power connectors, a Wi-Fi antenna, SIM card, sensors (like the compass, gyroscope, GPS, proximity, ambient light), a haptic engine (for vibration) and a lithium-ion battery, all connected. Different manufacturers use different approaches to assemble and secure everything inside, but typically this may include many different types and size of screw, security screws (making access difficult), plates and glue.

Did you know that:

  • a typical ‘smart’ phone weighs around 160 grams, we replace them roughly every two years,
  • it contains lots of components, made of different materials, from over 30 different elements,
  • these are processed from ores that are mined from the earth,
  • a 160-gram smartphone requires about 30kg of our planet to be mined to make its components,
  • when the mined ores are extracted and processed it creates around 85kg of toxic solid and liquid waste,
  • that’s 99.8% waste before that phone has even been used,
  • once we discard the phone, barely 18% is properly recycled,
  • and the rest becomes more potentially toxic waste.