Mining for Gold and Silver…in E-Waste
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
E-Waste in China (Photo: Natalie Behring, Greenpeace)
For centuries prospectors panned for gold and silver. Today, those seeking precious metals need only tear apart used computers and other electronics.
The market today for PCs, cell phones, tablets, and other electronics consumes an enormous amount of gold and silver, much of which could be—but is not—recycled, according to advocates.
More than 300 tons of gold and 7,500 tons of silver are used annually manufacturing personal electronics. This vast quantity of precious metals adds $21 billion in value each year to e-waste, which poses great opportunities for those interested in “urban mining.”
But few are taking advantage of e-waste’s wealth potential, as demonstrated by the fact that only 15% of gold and silver in discarded electronics is being recovered.
“Rather than looking at e-waste as a burden, we need to see it as an opportunity,” Alexis Vandendaelen of Belgium-based Umicore Precious Metals Refining said at a recent conference.
It definitely beats looking for gold and silver in streams or underground, as electronic waste now contains precious metal “deposits” that are 40 to 50 times richer than ores extracted from the earth.
To Learn More:
E-Waste: Annual Gold, Silver 'Deposits' in New High-Tech Goods Worth $21B; Less Than 15% Recovered (Science Daily)
E-waste: Annual Gold, Silver “Deposits” in New High-Tech Goods Worth $21 Billion+; Less Than 15% Recovered (Solving the E-Waste Problem)
Why Does the U.S. Refuse to Ratify the Hazardous Waste Treaty? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
E-Waste Poses Growing Threat Around the World (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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