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Tossing an old cellphone? You're literally throwing out gold

The gold colored version of the new iPhone 5S is seen after Apple Inc.'s media event in Cupertino, Calif., in September, 2013. Russia has proposed that Apple, along with Germany’s SAP, hand over their source code to ensure users aren’t being spied on.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

If you cannot wait to get your hands on the anticipated release of Apple Inc's iPhone 6.0, you might want to think twice before tossing aside its predecessor.

According to Sims Recycling, Americans dump US$60 million worth of gold and silver every year from junked cell phones, making electronics one of the fastest growing waste streams.

Sean Magann, vice president of Sims, explained to Kitco News that last year the company recycled 167 ounces of gold from cell phones, the equivalent of about 789 Olympic gold medals.

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Because of its malleability and strong conductive properties, gold plays an important role in smartphones, including Apple's iPhone 6, scheduled to be released in early September. Kitco News reached out to Apple to confirm the launch date; however, they did not respond to questions.

The World Gold Council's Head of Technology, Trevor Keel, said there is approximately 25 milligrams of gold generally found in smartphones, roughly worth about $1.

At first glance, this quantity of gold seems trivial. But looking at Apple's earnings, the company sold more than 35.2 million iPhones in the third quarter of their 2014 fiscal year.

This translates into iPhone customers having bought a little more than 31,000 oz of gold between April and June, which adds up to roughly $39.6 million at current gold prices.

In a recent posting on, an RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani was quoted saying he expects iPhone 6 sales to reach 10 million during its launch weekend and 75 million units by year-end, a potential of more than 66,000 ounces of gold.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a Washington D.C.-based trade association in scrap commodities, said that 3.3 tons of gold were extracted from 100 million scrapped cell phones in 2013.

"Rather than sticking them in a desk drawer or sending them to a landfill, responsibly recycling cell phones is good for the environment and is good for our economy, generating up to $150 million a year in scrap value," said Eric Harris, the institute's director of government and international affairs.

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