Around the globe, electronic waste is piling up. From old household appliances to broken headphones and other small electrical appliances – but they contain valuable raw materials. Used smartphones in particular represent an enormous economic and material value when viewed in their entirety worldwide.

As an integral part of their studies, students of Bioeconomy and Sustainable Management & Technology at the TUM Campus Straubing for Biotechnology and Sustainability take part in a workshop on the topic of electronic waste”. In the module “Circular Economy”, the students are made aware of the recycling of electronic devices containing rare elements and metals, and the entire supply chain of a smartphone is critically analyzed. Under the guidance of Vanessa Heinrich, Ph.D. student, and research assistant at the Chair of Circular Economy, the students critically examined the environmental and social footprint of a smartphone and discussed the problematic conditions and consequences of raw material extraction.

During the workshop, old smartphones were opened and disassembled into their individual parts. The small-scale construction of the devices quickly highlighted the difficulties of recycling, as well as the importance of extended use and proper disposal of mobile phones. The seminar concluded with an interactive brainstorming session in which the components of the smartphone were connected to raw material extraction and the supply chain, and solutions for sustainable use and production were developed.