Want to see what happens when an iPhone is placed into a high powered blender?
No, it’s not the kind of mindless destruction porn that often pops up on YouTube. Instead, it’s a serious scientific demonstration carried out by the U.K.’s University of Plymouth. The goal? To show exactly which chemical elements make up the pricey handsets we keep in our pockets. Check out the video below.
A global problem
The video does a good job of breaking down the precise quantities of elements which go into a smartphone. Where it gets particularly interesting, however, is looking at this figure in the context of the 1.4 billion mobile phones produced each year.
Among other astonishing figures, that includes 52 tons of gold, 131 tons of silver, and a mind-boggling 10.2 kilotons of chromium. Unfortunately, a large number of these handsets are made using conflict minerals from various parts of the world.
“We rely increasingly on our mobile phones but how many of us actually think what is behind the screen?” said Dr Arjan Dijkstra, lecturer in igneous petrology. “When you look, the answer is often tungsten and cobalt from conflict zones in Africa. There are also rare elements such as neodymium, praseodymium, gadolinium and dysprosium, not to mention quantities of gold, silver and other high value elements. All of these need to be mined by extracting high value ores, which is putting a significant strain on the planet.”
“In 2018, [the company] directed its suppliers to remove from its supply chain five smelters and refineries not willing to participate in, or complete, a third-party audit or that did not otherwise meet Apple’s requirements on the responsible sourcing of materials.”
There’s still plenty of room for improvement, however. Not least when it comes to Apple’s own often adversarial stance on the “Right to Repair” movement.