Illustration: Elena Xausa

Bad Ideas

This Is What Would Happen If You Literally Ate Your Phone

Minced, baked, or swallowed whole, a smartphone makes a terrible meal

Published in
4 min readOct 23, 2019


Welcome to Bad Ideas, a column in which we examine the practical limits of technology by considering the things you could do, and then investigating exactly why you shouldn’t. Because you can still learn from mistakes you’ll never make.

AApple likes to claim that their phone recycling program is “good for you, good for the planet.” Recycling is a noble cause, but what if we didn’t have to turn to the source of our e-waste to find a solution for it? We humans have a time-tested recycling program, literally, right under our noses: our guts.

We eat things, our body extracts the nutrients we need, and then discards the rest in a solid piece of solid waste (poop). That’s good for us, and good for the planet. So, why not recycle our phones the old-fashioned way, and eat them?

There are at least two documented cases of people attempting to do just that.

According to a 2014 case study, a 35-year-old male, intoxicated, attempted to swallow their cellphone, only to lodge it in their throat. It had to be surgically removed. Another case study, published in 2016, documented a 29-year-old patient who successfully swallowed a cell phone, though photos suggest that it was a candy bar-style feature phone, not a smartphone. In spite of several hours of vomiting, the phone remained in their stomach, thus requiring doctors to remove it. First they tried endoscopy (that is, trying to pull it back out through the esophagus); when that failed, they surgically opened up the patient and pulled the phone directly out of their stomach, not unlike a cesarean section.

Perhaps these two unlucky souls just got their technique wrong. Maybe there’s a right way to consume your expensive pocket computer?

The most obvious method of consumption — the one we’re biologically engineered for — is biting, chewing, and swallowing. Try as you might, you cannot masticate your phone. Based on the Mohs scale, an ordinal measure of a mineral’s hardness, tooth enamel falls somewhere at a 5. Today’s smartphones are made from glass (hardness: 7.5) and either stainless…