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(Originally posted/printed April 2013 but worth a revisit ED) Modern consumer goods such as computers, cellphones, dvd players, washers and dryers (and anything else that uses electricity) all have an intrinsic value and if you were to peer inside these things you’d notice a lot of wire and circuitry. This means a surprisingly substantial amount of copper, silver and gold are waiting for “the recycling” but what’s really happening is that they are being stripped and salvaged. Why salvaged instead of recycled? Because all the hoopla is about money.
Consumerism is influenced by fashion and electronic devices- especially personal electronic devices are no exception. After all, how many of us upgrade our cellphone every two years? How many of us swear that the image quality on our BlueRay player more than makes up for the fact that our old DVD player is sitting in a landfill somewhere, stripped of all of its valuable gold, silver and platinum?
How much value are we talking about? It is difficult to determine an exact value of gold and other precious materials in an average cellphone. This is because no two models are exactly alike, no two batteries are exactly alike and manufacturers have their own preferences when it comes to designing and constructing next year’s model but consumers are starting to wise-up and ask questions.
Lux Bringer from reddit.com:
All of a sudden these, “bring your old cellphones to us so we can recycle them for you” campaigns are making a lot more sense. Sneaky bastards.
PtrN from reddit.com:PtrN
I’m not sure. I’m seeing that the average cell phone has 1/8 a gram of gold in it from other comments. At the time of this writing, CNN currently has gold going at $1650USD per troy ounce. I crunched the numbers and am seeing that there is about $6.60USD worth of gold in a cellphone. Not too bad, but I don’t know how profitable it will be after you take into account the costs of transportation and the extraction process itself.
Thoust from reddit.com:
There are other materials in a phone they can salvage besides gold
professor_fatass from reddit.com:
According to the article you also get platinum, palladium, and copper. As well as the glass and plastic which may not be worth much but it can still be recycled.
Interesting isn’t it? Let’s consider the price of copper. According to one Ontario copper scrap recycler, last Fall scrap Copper in Ontario was worth about 3$CDN per pound. http://mongorecycling.blogspot.ca/2012/10/ontario-scrap-prices-show-copper-2-at-2.96-per-pound.html If you’re keen and want to sell your own scrap copper you will need a lot of it. An average washing machine motor has about 6$CDN worth of copper wiring up for grabs. http://www.instructables.com/id/how-to-get-tons-of-free-enameled-copper-wire/http://priceofscrapmetal.com/how-to-sell-scrap-copper-wire/
Gold! There is gold and platinum inside computer circuit boards and hard drives. Most of the gold is an alloy or plated over another metal but at highs predicted to reach near $1,8000USD per ounce- a high volume recycling effort will pay off.
Bleepin’ Animinion from bleepingcomputer.com:
Any, true recycling effort that would be of a profitable nature needs to be EPA approved. Due to the multiple hazardous materials mixed in with the minute amounts of precious metals. As well as the highly toxic removal and heavy metals separations processes. Also as an example it would take an average of one ton of random circuit-board waste to generate one pound of gold. Add to that electronic grade precious metals are not the expensive jewelry grade high dollar metals. Therefore looking at the gold market is not the price you would get. So the profit you would make on the precious metals would be eaten up by the fees and expense of waste disposal of the one ton of hazardous useless waste product left behind after you reclaimed the precious and hazardous heavy metals. This is definitely not a a project to undertake on a small scale in your garage.
This last quote is an important thing to consider. If you are considering dropping off or having your scrap electronics and appliances salvaged, ask the company if they are environmentally approved and a member of the Ontario Electronic Stewardship. After all, your discarded electronics will earn a tidy sum of money for a large scale salvager. The least they can do is operate within the law and operate with an environmental conscience. But there is some worry. The salvagers are looking for an uninformed public- they set up their marketing and advertising in a way that makes no mention of the economic benefits they stand to make. They seldom if ever offer you a small stipend for your ‘donated scrap’ and perhaps even worse, many pose as “good deed” companies ridding us of our “broken goods” destined for the landfill. The Ontario Electronic Stewardship is a non-profit group that overseas responsible recycling of electronics. This Stewardship works with existing legal frameworks put in place by Waste Diversion Ontario and the 2002 Waste Diversion Act. www.wdo.ca
Social impact in the developing world. In Southern China over 100,000 people including children spend their lives dismantling discarded electronic devices for scrap metal and an unknown number are doing the same thing in Nigeria. http://www.economist.com/news/international/21570678-growing-mounds-electronic-scrap-can-mean-profits-or-scandals-cadmium-lining
Some players are keeping it real. Not every electronic device recycling campaign is shady. More and more not-for-profit groups and volunteer fire departments are setting up large recycling bins with signage such as “your donated scrap metal and electronics helps fund X”. If you are considering dropping off to your local “recycling and scrap drive” ask a few questions. Where are the profits from the salvaged materials going? Is the company operating the drive aware of the Ontario Electronic Stewardship guidelines? What happens to your donated goods at the end of the cycle- are they destined for a landfill or for China? For the Silo, Jarrod Barker.