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The number of smart phone users globally
is set to reach 2.5 billion by 2019.
Around a third of the world's population will own one.
Smartphones touch every element of our lives.
But did you know that they also connect nearly every
element on the planet?
In fact, of the 118 elements on the periodic table,
75 can be found inside a smartphone.
These raw materials are extracted from the ground
and shipped to refineries and factories
in a truly global supply chain.
One of the most common elements in the earth's crust,
is used to make the billions of transistors in the chips
that power your phone.
Gold is used for electrical wiring.
About 0.03 grams of it in each iPhone.
Indium, another metal, is used to make touch screens.
But when it comes to batteries,
lithium is one of the key components,
and this element is only mined in a handful of countries.
Until recently, Chile used to produce the most lithium.
But now Australia has the biggest market share.
The Democratic Republic of Congo,
a dangerously unstable country
with a poor human rights record,
produces more than half the world's cobalt,
another crucial element in smartphone batteries.
Smartphone makers are under pressure to ensure their cobalt
is responsibly sourced.
About 80% of the cobalt used in batteries
is refined in China.
Many so-called rare-earth elements
are also used in smartphones,
in the screen, the speaker,
and the motor that makes your phone vibrate.
About 85% of rare-earth elements are produced in China.
Despite their name, rare-earth elements
are not particularly rare,
but they are hard to extract
without producing toxic and radioactive byproducts.
Many of the elements used in smartphones
are finite resources,
and have no functional substitutes.
Rather than digging in the ground for the elements needed
for new handsets,
it makes sense to extract them from old phones.
But only about 10% of handsets are recycled now.
So recycle your phone if you get a new one this year.
Why? It is, you might say, elementary.
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Where does your phone come from? | The Economist

5843 Folder Collection
Priscilla published on October 12, 2018    Priscilla translated    Evangeline reviewed
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