Reuse and Recycling

Urban mining: Digging for treasure in your old phone

Reuse and Recycling

Whether your phone is a Fairphone or not, there’s no escaping the fact that all of our smartphones have a deep social and environmental impact. There are over 30 non-renewable minerals nestled behind that screen in your hand, each one with its own complicated history, from mine to factory to phone. And the story doesn’t end there – according to a recent UN University report, over 50 million tonnes of e-waste is produced every year, only 20% of which gets recycled. We believe that the solution to this problem begins with changing how we view our phone – by opening it and seeing how all these different stories fit together.

Need a quick reminder, why urban mining matters? Check out the video above.

That’s why we’ve created something called urban mining: a workshop that takes you on a journey deep into the stories of your phone’s making, and lets you extract some of the reusable materials for recycling. You’ll uncover the facts (and fun) within, and dig into the world’s e-waste problem. You’ll put on a helmet lamp and a brave face, open up that drawer where you keep those old disused phones, and descend below the surface of the screen to learn the story of its origins. And the best part? You can run such a workshop yourself!

As a workshop host, you, your friends, colleagues, students, family or community will explore how dismantling our non-functioning devices in the right way allows many materials inside to be reused or recycled, reducing the phone’s overall impact.

What you need to host an urban mining workshop

We recommend that workshop participants are over 12 years of age, but it’s a fun project for anyone interested in learning more about their electronics. It’s not a big, official event: you can do the workshop by yourself or with a group of friends. It’s also a great group activity for a class of students. The most important tool is, of course, curiosity!


These tools will come in handy during your urban mining workshop.

You’ll also need:
  • The Urban Mining Manual: Miner’s Guide
  • An old, non-functioning mobile phone (preferably not a smartphone)
  • A clean, flat working surface
  • Some common tools (various screwdrivers, metal spudgers and tweezers)

What are we mining for?

Once you’ve gathered all your materials, you can open your old phone and carefully split it into its various components. To understand the real value of a product, we believe you should begin with understanding where it comes from and who made it. We’re very proud to have produced the Fairphone using fully sourceable, conflict-free tin and tantalum, so these minerals are the focus of our urban mining workshop. From the printed circuit board to the antenna casing, we’ll guide you through your phone step by step, tracing the stories of these materials from the earth to your hand. This workshop will show that if we handle and dismantle our non-functioning devices in the right way, many of the materials inside can be recycled and re-used, lowering the social and environmental footprint left behind by the phone.


There are over 30 non-renewable minerals nestled behind that screen in your hand.

Lets get mining!

Education is the first step in taking action against the world’s e-waste problem. But there are so many ways to take action, starting today:

So, what are you waiting for? Make a difference today: grab that old phone from the drawer and let’s get mining!

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