In search of treasure

There's a treasure in every home. Even in yours! You can find gold, silver and copper in your drawers. Go on a treasure hunt and declare war on e-waste.

W e use it all the time, at cafes, on the subway, with friends: the Internet. Not to mention the smartphones, notebooks, tablets and apps that go with it. Thanks to them we're more mobile, flexible and connected than ever before. According to Statista, 2.1 billion people were using smartphones worldwide in 2016, and the numbers are growing. And because we always want to have the latest model, many typical con­sumers purchase a new smartphone every year and a new computer every three years. But our thirst for the latest technology creates significant prob­lems, one of which is the tremendous amount or resources this requires. Smartphones, for example, contain precious metals like silver, gold and platinum. Some of these devices also contain conflict resources like coltan and tantalum, the extraction of which is linked to the civil war currently waging in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

That's how much e-waste we produce world wide

Amount of e-waste in 2014 in million metric tons

1 3 5 7
  • USA

  • China

  • Japan

  • Germany

  • UK

  • France

1 3 5 7
  • USA

  • China

  • Japan

  • Germany

  • UK

  • France

But that's not all. The tremendous amount of electronic scrap we all produce is another problem. Accor­ding to the e-waste monitor report published by the United Nations University, 41.8 million metric tons of electronic scrap has already been produced worldwide in 2014. If you were to put it all in garbage trucks, lined up those trucks would stretch half way across the globe.

In ordinary landfills, dangerous environmental toxins like lead, arsenic or cadmium can often enter the soil easily.

Electronic scrap is a real nightmare. Right? Well, yes and no. Why, you ask? Huge amounts of copper, gold, silver and other metals are hiding right now just in drawers throughout Germany. We have replaced and stored away an estimated 100 million used cell phones. One fourth of each of these phones is comprised of metals, making them true resource treasures. The illustration below paints a clear picture. If we are able to recover this treasure then we benefit from the mines – urban mining. However, we can only use these "urban mines" to protect the environment if everyone works together.

2 tons of gold in our drawers

There around 100 million old mobile phones in Germany's drawers; only 3% of Germans recycle their devices. And yet, a drawer is the worst possible place for them, because they contain precious raw material that we need urgently.

Back casing

The back casing of the phone consists of particularly robust plastics.


Besides graphite, plastics and silicon, the battery also contains various lithium compounds as well as stannic oxide, nickel, manganese, cobalt and further raw materials.

Battery casing

The casing itself is made from plastics, the battery contacts and the charging plug that is also found here consist of precious metal alloys.


Inside the plastic connectors there are electrical contcats containing precious metals like gold, silver and platine.

Circuit board

The circuit board contains precious silver, zinc, gold, platine, lead and tin, as well as copper, glass and ceramics, but also plastic materials like PPS, epoxy resin and ABS-PC.

Contact plate for the keyboard

The plate is mostly made from plastics; it has metal contacts on the backside that close a circuit on the board when a key is pressed.

Insulating plate

This plate consists of plastics and shields the electronic parts behind it.


The screws are made from iron and often have an additional zinc coating.


Aside from the formative plastics, the speaker also contains copper. Additionally, there is a permanent magnet made from ferrite or an alloy of aluminium, nickel and cobalt.


The phone's display is made from plastics and a plethora of precious metals.


The keyboard is made out of plastics.

Front cover

The front cover consists of particularly robust plastics.

What we can do

  • Anything else?

    Before purchasing a device, ask yourself if you really need a new one or if you could just update your old one instead? You can find certified companies online that will look at supposedly defective devices and fix them.

  • Prefer green

    And if you do decide you need a new device, go green. You can find great suggestions online like the Greenpeace advice portal on green electronics. The portal provides you with information on device performance, durability, production conditions and recycling. A Dutch company, for example, sells the Fairphone, a smartphone that is more than just environmentally friendly. Many of its parts can be repaired or replaced as well.

  • Small steps with
    a great effect

    A small step with huge impact. And your old device? Please don't put it in a drawer or in the trash. Even devices beyond repair still contain valuable resources that can be up to 100% recycled. Deutsche Telekom has been collecting used cell phones and smartphones since 2003 and either reusing them or making sure they are professionally recycled. The entire cell-phone collection process is DEKRA certified and complies with strict data privacy standards. Deutsche Telekom donates the proceeds to non-profit organizations such as Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V., more information here

Luckily, it's very simple. All you need to do is take your old cell phone out of the door and bring it to the nearest recyc­ling center. One way to do this is to send your old phone back your service provi­der free of charge. Or just put it in the el­ectronics bin at your nearest recycling center. Even better – and twice as much help – take it to the nearest collection point of Deutsche Telekom's cell-phone collection center. Not only do we reintro­duce valuable resources to the product cycle through professional recycling, we also donate the proceeds to projects that support the environment, educa­tion and health. The results to date? We have already collected an incredible 2.5 million cell phones, making our cell-phone collection program the most successful collection initiative in Germany.