LIKE missionary magpies, volunteers at two Oxfordshire churches have starting amassing hoards of secondhand mobile phones, sat navs and computers.

The keen collectors at Corpus Christi RC in Headington and Our Lady of Lourdes in Wheatley are pleading with parishioners to bring in old electricals that contain valuable precious metals.

The churches are sending the old devices to be recycled, to help stop some of the environmental damage done by extracting them from the Earth.

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The metal mission was partly inspired by the recent youth strikes for climate around the world, but also in response to Pope Francis’s plea to care for the planet.

Headington parishioner Fortunata Oates said: "Mining these metals from ore is difficult; we have found out that it takes a tonne of ore to get one gram of gold but we can recycle it from existing mobile phones and other electronic equipment."

Old mobile phones, cameras, sat navs, tablet computers and Kindles ebook readers all contain precious metals like gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium.

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Dr John Guy, a former a research chemist now living in Wheatley who is backing the churches' project, said: "It is not easy, but recycling can yield a surprising amount of material.

"Other rare earth elements such as yttrium and gadolinium are in the phone screens; neodymium and praseodymium are used in headphones; lanthanum is used in the tiny lens in the phone’s camera.

"All these rare elements can be recovered.”

The churches are also collecting other items like jewellery and watches, foreign currency left over from holidays abroad, and used postage stamps which people collect and then leave in drawers and cupboards.

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Claire Harvey, a parishioner at Corpus Christi, said: "I was astonished to find that I had three old mobile phones in the drawer at home which I had collected over the last 10 years – alongside three cameras, two tablets and a Kindle."

Over two weekends in October, parishioners brought in sackfuls of precious trash which will be bagged up and sent for recycling to Recycling for Good Causes.

The company then gives money back to the parish which will be sent to CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development.

The churches are hoping to arrange more collection days in due course.