The environmental consequences of our smartphone addiction

Posted June 26th 2017

Most of us now use smartphones on a daily basis, but we give little thought as to the materials contained within them. All smartphones contain a mix of precious metals such as platinum, palladium, gold, silver and copper.

A typical iPhone, one of the most predominant smartphones on the market, contains a mix of 0.034g of gold, 0.34g of silver, 0.015g of palladium and a very small amount of platinum (under a thousandth of a gram). In addition to this it also contains 25g of aluminium and 15g of copper.

Around 40% of a standard smartphone is composed of metals and the unfortunately less than 10% of these handsets are typically recycled which means the materials contained within them are not able to be recovered and used again. When you consider the sheer number of people who own a smartphone – over two billion – and the fact that most people will typically upgrade their phone every 1-2 years, the amount of material going to waste is staggering. With the smartphone obsession looking more likely to grow rather than fizzle out any time soon, the implications of this are important. These are finite resources and cannot just be tapped endlessly – there is a limit to what is available.

One solution would be to decrease the frequency with which we change smartphones, although this is highly unlikely to work in practice. It is, however, important to make people aware of the implications of their behaviour and encourage them to consider this. Awareness could also help to recover some of the materials sitting in old smartphones if people are encouraged to return them. Just one million old handsets could be turned into almost 16 tonnes of copper, 350kg of silver, 15 kg of palladium and 34kg of gold.

Although there is no clear solution this is certainly a problem that needs to be talked about. Awareness can help to alter people’s behaviour and may help us to preserve and recover some of these much needed resources.

metals in smartphone


The different types of stainless steel

Posted June 21st 2017

Stainless steel is an immensely popular steel alloy that is highly prized for its resistance to corrosion and used in a variety of ways, including cutlery, medicine and jewelry. There are different types of stainless steel and the type will depend on what has been added to it. The fact that different varieties can be formed gives this an alloy an immense versatility which explains its popularity and suitability for a wide number of applications.


Austenitic stainless steel can also be referred to as the 300 series and is formed by adding 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Over 70% of stainless steel production is for austenitic steel and it is popularly used in kitchens and food processing equipment due to its excellent hygiene properties.


Ferritic stainless steels are usually cheaper and often have better engineering qualities than austenitic. They can contain up to 27% chromium and their high resistance to corrosion means they can be used in severe environments, such as being submerged in seawater for prolonged periods of time, although austenitic is still more durable.


Less durable than ferritic and austenitic steels, martensitic was one of the first to be commercially produced and is still very strong. It contains up to 18% chromium with a very low amount of nickel and molybdenum. High temperatures can make it harder and it has commonly been used in cutlery, as well as pins and surgical instruments.


Duplex stainless steels are a mix of austenitic and ferritic, or at least the components that make them. The mix is usually half and half, although it can be slightly more weighted to in a 60/40 split, and has a high chromium content of up to 32% as well as low nickel and usually around 5% molybdeneum. The best qualities of each type show up in this version, which is highly resistant to corrosion, more so than any other variety, as well as strong and sometimes magnetic. Standard duplex is the variety most widely used but super duplex also exists which is considered the very best quality of stainless steel.

steel types

UK steel and the American market

Posted June 10th 2017

As Donald Trump increases protectionism in the United States, UK steel workers have voiced their concerns and begun lobbying the government in an effort not to be cut off from the American market.

In April of this year, President Donald Trump launched a ‘Section 232’ investigation with the purpose of studying steel imports in the country with a view to protecting the US industry. His aim was to ‘fight for American workers and American-made steel’, protecting the US steel sector, something he considers a matter of national security.

Currently, around 25% of the US steel market is made up through Chinese imports and Trumps concern comes from the worry that this could overwhelm the American industry with its huge steel making capacity. Although the investigation is not targeted at one particular nation according to authorities, the outcome could mean a significant increase in the tariffs that are placed on foreign steel, in an effort to protect and preserve the domestic industry.

Whilst steel production and import to the US is on nowhere the same scale for Britain as it is for China, British steel workers are still fearful that the outcome of the investigation could deal a heavy blow to the UK steel industry if larger tariffs were introduced for all imports to the US. Currently exports to the US from Britain account for a massive £340 million per year in sales and around 250,000 tonnes of the 7.6 million tonnes produced each year.