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10 November 2009

Interesting update on recycling Coltan from mobile phones

We received the below informative response from Mobile Muster to explain the situation with recycling Coltan from mobile phones. Plus, it is a chance to publish another gorgeous Gorilla photo (you can download this photo as a screen saver from National Geographic).

Coltan cannot be recovered during the recycling process of circuit boards. This is because it exists in such minute quantities and is in a non-metallic form making it extremely difficult to extract.

Recently there has been some misleading information published about the widespread use of coltan in mobile phones.

Firstly, handset manufacturers require suppliers of coltan/tantalum, which is used in some handset capacitors, to verify and certify that it was not obtained from the Congo.

Secondly, many handsets do not use coltan. Some manufacturers have eliminated the use of coltan altogether and in those handsets that contain coltan its use has been significantly reduced. In a handset containing coltan, typically only one capacitor out of more than 100 would contain coltan. In such a phone, this equates to less than 0.04g of coltan, which is about 0.04% of the phone’s weight.

Although the use of coltan is being phased out, when it is used (from non-illegal sources), coltan capacitors provide superior voice quality for users, such as those with a hearing impairment

Thirdly, Tantalum (from Coltan) is used in a wide range of products, including computer motherboards, computer disc drivers, video camcorders, engine control units, surgical equipment, turbine blades in jet engines and lining chemical reactors. It was estimated that the mobile telecommunications industry used less than 2% of the yearly worldwide production (not from Africa) of tantalum.

Fourthly, the mobile telecommunications industry is working with the environmental movement and consumers to explore any other measures that could effectively safeguard the gorillas’ habitat in the DRC. Our members are involved in the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), which is a global partnership of ICT companies supported by the United Nations Environment Program and International Telecommunications Union. It promotes technologies for sustainable development and it addresses issues including: supply chains, climate change and e-waste.

Author & Editor

Tracey Bailey is the founder of Biome Eco Stores and mother of two. After working in corporate communications and starting a family, she made a choice to be part of the solution to our planet's future and started Biome Eco Stores. Tracey is passionate about educating the community about living eco-friendly and sustainable lives through her extended product, chemical, health and environmental knowledge.


Anonymous said... - This program focuses more on reusing unwanted phones or breaking them down for spare parts instead of recycling the materials. Therefore the coltan can be reused instead needing to recycled, which is too hard to do. It's an alternative to MobileMuster, but they're not going to tell you about it.

Anonymous said...

So who is buying the Coltan from the Congo? Someone is buying it clearly. Identifying those buyers and exposing the source may be a way to target illegal mining from the Congo area.

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