When electronic products, such as computers, cell phones, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, fax machines1, internal chips and other relating parts, reach the end of their lifetime, they become electronic waste, otherwise known as “e-waste.” E-waste can often comprise of several hazardous components which can include heavy metals like mercury and lead. Despite this reality, gold, as well as other precious metals, also make up a significant amount of e-waste, and its extraction could have advantageous properties for the gold industry.
- It is estimated that 20-50 million metric tons of e-waste is disposed in landfills around the world each year.
- Dumped e-waste is estimated to contain over $60 million in gold and silver every year.
- In the United States alone, e-waste accounts for 2% of all trash that is dumped in landfills. E-waste also accounts for 70% of all overall toxic waste in the United States.
- Approximately 12.5% of e-waste is currently being recycled.
- For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, the following amounts of precious metals can be recovered:
- 16,000 kg of copper
- 350 kg of silver
- 34 kg of gold
- 15 kg of palladium