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What’s a smartphone made of? - Kim Preshoff

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As of 2018, there are around 2.5 billion smartphone users in the world. If we broke open all the newest phones and split them into their component parts, that would produce around 85,000 kg of gold, 875,000 of silver, and 40,000,000 of copper. How did this precious cache get into our phones--and can we reclaim it? Kim Preshoff investigates the sustainability of phone production.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Kim Preshoff
  • Director Dmitry Yagodin
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Art Director Dmitry Yagodin
  • Animator Dmitry Yagodin
  • Designer Dmitry Yagodin
  • Producer Vessela Dantcheva
  • Composer Samuel Pocreau
  • Sound Designer Samuel Pocreau
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
While recycling electronic waste, also known as recycling e-waste, is the right thing to do, it still has repercussions on the people who are working to provide the service. This article explains a bit about some of those issues: E-Waste Offers an Economic Opportunity as Well as Toxicity.

Curious about what exactly is in your smartphone? The Secret Life of a Smart Phone from the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States is a great resource! Take a look to learn more.

This United Nations released a publication that addresses the problems associated with poorer nations being saddled with e-waste recycling and the hazards that result: United Nations System-wide Response to Tackling E-waste.

Check out this video to explore why e-waste is such a problem and learn about the 44 pounds of electronic waste you throw out a year too. On the contrary, if done correctly, e-waste recycling could be a profitable business and even good for the planet.

Want to find out more on those rare earth and other elements in your smartphone? Read this article from the American Chemical society: Smartphones: Smart Chemistry. If you’re still curious about what makes up a cell phone, check out Where to Find Rare Earth Elements. The SciShow also has a great video on the Rare Earth Elements and exactly what they are!

Making all these smartphones has a huge effect on the environment. We might have to consider: Is there an eco-friendly way to make smartphones? Still looking for a way to use that old cell phone that might be sitting around in your drawer at home? Try any of these 14 brilliant things to do with that old cell phone you have laying around.

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Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Kim Preshoff
  • Director Dmitry Yagodin
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Art Director Dmitry Yagodin
  • Animator Dmitry Yagodin
  • Designer Dmitry Yagodin
  • Producer Vessela Dantcheva
  • Composer Samuel Pocreau
  • Sound Designer Samuel Pocreau
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
  • See more