No matter how broken it is, your old cell phone is still valuable to some people. That’s because it, like most electronics, is loaded with copper, iridium, gold, and other commodities that are becoming more expensive by the day. “To some it's just a mountain of garbage, but for others it's a gold mine," one recycling-plant manager tells Reuters.
The process is called “urban mining"—and right now it’s a growth industry, big in Japan and growing in China. Some of the scavenged goods are reused in other electronics, while others, like the gold, are melted down into fresh ingots. “It can be precious or minor metals, we want to recycle whatever we can,” one exec said.