Are you sitting on a goldmine?
I’m back on the recycling bandwagon again.
Recently I was concerned about recycling WEEE; in particular laptops and computers that hold confidential information.
Now I’ve been learning about the precious metals we might literally be throwing away, with our E waste.
You might remember from your school physics lessons that all electronic devices contain circuit boards.
And within these circuit boards, I’ve learned we’re all sitting on tiny goldmines!
Most circuit boards contain precious metals such as gold, palladium, silver and sometimes platinum.
There are also an array of base metals such as aluminium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc.
And it’s this rich variety of metals that makes your electronic items valuable to recyclers.
According to one site, a metric ton of electronic waste contains 8 to 16 ounces of gold.
If you’ve ever taken apart your laptop, perhaps to install more memory or replace the battery you’ll see the motherboard has many gold connectors and pins.
According to AWA Refiners gold is chosen because it is an excellent conductor of electricity and highly resistant to corrosion, which makes it an attractive proposition for manufacturers to use in contact points within small computer chips.
Although one site claims a dismantled computer is worth only $9 in scrap metal, recycling isn’t about the money, it’s about the future.
Every aspect of the life cycle of any electronic device demands resources and energy – from materials extraction, processing raw materials, manufacturing, packaging and transport, useful life right through to end of life disposal; so we owe it to ourselves and our environment to reduce those demands as much as possible.
If we focus on gold for a moment, gold mining is extremely destructive.
The destruction begins when land is cleared and roads are built for access.
The mining itself, whether large scale or small scale is extraordinarily harmful to both land and nearby water (Not to mention the miners themselves).
Most gold is mined by spraying the earth with sodium cyanide to leach out the gold. The toxins then end up in local drinking water supplies. So long after the gold has been mined, the process continues to poison the environment.
Added to which, if E waste ends up in landfill, it leaches out a toxic cocktail in the land and, in all probability, the ground water.
So what’s the answer?
By retrieving valuable materials, mining can be reduced which reduces environmental impact and preserves resources.
It’s a no brainer to recycle E-waste, right?
What about you – were you aware of all the valuable materials inside your electronic equipment?