UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Recycling precious metals from mobile phones Aquino, Sergio


The world population reached 7.5 billion inhabitants in April 2017. The number of mobile phones will reach 4.77 billion by the end of this year. Mobile phones are made of more than 50 elements. Discoveries of economically viable gold mines in the main producing countries have been slowing down significantly since the 1800s. The global surface temperature of the planet is warming at 0.17⁰C per decade relative to pre-industrial levels. The mobile phone was chosen for this thesis because it is a comprehensive unit of hazardous waste and e-waste. Mobile phones are a municipal solid waste and public health concern. The low energy and low barrier to entry recycling business this thesis envisions recycles precious metals from end of life mobile phones close to where the devices are discarded. This thesis uses system dynamics to model the exponential adoption of mobile phones and its impact in mining and CO₂e emissions. The model is the basis to calculate the return of new precious metal recycling businesses. Climate change is one of the hardest problem men has ever faced because it requires many countries to work together to establish climate centric governance and policies. Businesses are reviewing their supply chain and energy sources. This work focuses on disruptive low energy and low barrier to entry technologies to recycle precious metals from mobile phones. Local recycling businesses will create jobs and stimulate the economy in B.C., Canada, and the world.  

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International