Recycling an old mobile phone can save gorilla populations

Eastern lowland gorilla
Eastern lowland gorilla

Recycling an old mobile phone can save gorilla populations

Are you among the 400 million people all over the world who have released an old mobile phone in the top drawer last year? Do you realize your reluctance to recycle that the abandoned phone may be linked to the dramatic decline of eastern lowland gorilla populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

The link between hoarding disused mobile phones and decay of eastern lowland gorilla or Grauer gorilla housing has been discovered in a paper published in PLOS One, which is written by the researchers of the University of South Australia and the University of Zoos Victoria. Both organizations evaluated the first six years of the ongoing 'They're Calling On You" mobile phone recycling program, as part of a national campaign run in the Australian Zoos, which is operated by Zoos Victoria.

As part of the program, the zoo visitors and the wider Victorian community were educated about the value of the recycled abandoned phones to remove the special metals used in their construction - the same metals that were used in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC) is being mined, not only to destroy the gorillas, but also funding the wars and human rights abuses.

Dr. Carla Litchfield,, the paper's lead author and UniSA Conservation Psychologist and Great Ape expert said in a statement “if 'conflict' elements -- including gold and coltan -- can be recovered from old mobile phones, there is less incentive to mine gorilla habitats for the same minerals. Recycling is done for every 30-40 mobile phone, on average, one gram of gold can be recovered, as soon as the sale of mobile phones is increasing, and some smartphones are increasing the content of gold, the natural sources of gold are expected to run out by 2030."

The authors point out barriers to the recycling used phones in many countries, including privacy around phone mineral composition, lack of e-waste recycling points, secrecy concerns to access older data, and phone recycling used only with plain hoarding.

In Germany, it has been estimated that more than 8000 tonnes of precious metals will remain in uncontrolled mobile and smartphones by 2035, and in China, estimated to be around 9 tonnes of gold, 15 tonnes of silver and 3100 tonnes of copper by 2025, 0.35 billion uncontrolled phones Supply of loop.

Hoarding is problematic because precious metals are not extracted and in these circular areas, these metals are returned to the circular economy, creating the need for mining. The other issue is that if people give up their old phones, then most people dispose of them into their domestic waste, which ends in the landfill, where they spray toxic metals.

Recent population estimates of Grauer gorillas in the DRC show a dramatic 73-93 percent decline, with less than 4000 remaining in the wild and the species now listed as Critically Endangered. Distinguished primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall started the National Mobile Recycling Campaign in Melbourne Zoo in 2009 so that visitors can be educated about the importance of mining in the DRC, destruction of gorilla dwellings and the importance of mobile phone recycling.

By 2014, visitors to Zoo in Victoria donated more than 115,000 mobile phones to recycling as a result of social marketing initiatives.

Dr. Lichfield says, "This number can be a drop in the ocean - there represents 0.01 percent of an Arab retired phone - but when you look at the context of the situation of six million people, it is very effective. 
Hopefully, this campaign can be rolled out globally and then we can really make a difference."

Journal Reference:
PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (12): e0206890 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206890

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The Scientific World is a Scientific and Technical Information Network that provides readers with informative & educational blogs and articles. Site Admin: Mahtab Alam Quddusi - Blogger, writer and digital publisher.

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