According to the Researchers from Tsinghua University in Beijing and Macquarie University in Australia, recovering gold, copper, and other metals from electronic waste isn’t just sustainable, but is 13 times cheaper than extracting metals from mines.
The researchers analyzed the data from 8 recycling companies in China and calculated the cost of extracting metals from e-waste in a practice called urban mining. The findings revealed that a typical cathode-ray tube TV contained almost a pound of copper, more than half a pound of aluminum, and 0.02 ounces of gold.
According to American Chemical Society, the recyclers’ expenses included the cost of waste collection, labor, energy, material, and transportation plus capital costs for equipment and buildings, which are offset by government subsidies and revenue.
The researchers said that with these offsets in the picture, it cost them 13 times more to obtain the metals from ore than from urban mining.
The study was limited to the extraction of copper and gold, but the results indicated a trend and potential to be applied across a broader range of e-waste sources and extracted metals.
“If these results can be extended to other metals and countries, they promise to have a positive impact on waste disposal and mining activities globally, as the circular economy comes to displace linear economic pathways,” the researchers wrote in their abstract.
To companies like Dell, extracting metals extracting metals from e-waste has long made financial and environmental sense, expressed by Mr. Michael Murphy, vice president of global product compliance engineering and environmental affairs.
Earlier this year, using gold recovered from Dell’s recycling programs, the company collaborated with actress and activist Nikki Reed on a limited edition jewelry collection made in the US. Since 2012, the corporation says it has turned more than 50 million pounds of post-consumer recycled materials into new products.