Home Mobiles Hoarding old mobile phones is pushing gorillas to the brink of extinction, say conservationists – iNews

Hoarding old mobile phones is pushing gorillas to the brink of extinction, say conservationists – iNews

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Hoarding old mobile phones is pushing the gorilla population to the brink of extinction, say conservationists.

It is thought about 400 million people across the globe have relegated an old mobile to a top drawer in the past year.

This reluctance to recycle could be linked to the dramatic decline of gorilla populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo as their habitat is being destroyed by mining.

Brink of extinction

Conservation Psychologist and Great Ape expert Dr Carla Litchfield said: “Just as mobile phone sales are soaring, and gold content is increasing in some smartphones, natural sources of gold are expected to run out by 2030.

“Hoarding is problematic since precious metals are not extracted and returned to the circular economy, creating the need to mine these metals in wilderness areas.”

By 2035 in Germany, it is predicted that more than 8000 tonnes of precious metals will lie in unrecycled mobile and smartphones.

By 2025 in China, an estimated nine tonnes of gold, 15 tonnes of silver and 3100 tonnes of copper will also be out of the supply loop in 0.35 billion unrecycled phones.

Mobile phone demand

The demand for metals for phones, such as gold and coltan, means more mining of the gorilla habitat in the east of the Democratic Republc of Congo (DRC).

Researchers from the University of South Australia and Zoos Victoria investigated the link between the decimation of the Grauer gorilla habitats and the need to recycle mobiles in a paper published in the journal PLOS One.

Hoarding is problematic since precious metals are not extracted and returned to the circular economy, creating the need to mine these metals in wilderness areas

Dr Carla Litchfield

Recent population estimates of Grauer gorillas in the DRC show a decline of 73-93 per cent, with less than 4000 remaining in the wild.

The species is now listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Dr Litchfield, the paper’s lead author, said if elements such as gold and coltan could be recovered from old mobiles there would be less incentive to mine in gorilla habitats.

She added:”For every 30-40 mobile phones that are recycled, on average, one gram of gold can be recovered.”

Researchers believe barriers to recycling mobiles, aside from hoarding, are a lack of recycling points, secrecy about the phones’ mineral composition and fears about data privacy.

Gorilla habitats

They evaluated a mobile phone recycling campaign by Zoos Victoria, entitled They’re Calling On You” and launched in 2009 at Melbourne Zoo.

Zoo visitors and the local community of Victoria were educated about the value of recycling old mobile phones for their special metals and the link between mining and gorilla habitat.

By 2014, more than 115,000 old mobile phones had been donated for recycling.

Dr Litchfield said: “This number may seem a drop in the ocean – representing just 0.01 per cent of the one billion retired phones out there – but when you look at the result in the context of a state of six million people, it is very impressive.

“Hopefully this campaign can be rolled out globally and then we could really make a difference.”

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