Technology advances at a phenomenal rate in the consumer electronic device market, with more efficient, faster, lighter, more powerful devices being released each year. This means that each year thousands of tonnes of devices are discarded as newer versions replace them, in fact e-waste is one of the fastest growing components of human waste.
Not only is the quantity of waste vast, but also the value in terms of precious metals and plastics, which could be recovered and recycled. According to experts at the first ever Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) urban land fill sites now amount to actual treasure troves, full of precious metal deposits which can be 40-50 times richer than actual metal ores being produced from mines.
Despite the fact that world gold production increased 15% between 2001 and 2011, from 3,900 tonnes to 4,500 tonnes; the percentage of that supply being used in electronic devices also increased from 5.3% to 7.7%. Each year 320 tonnes of gold and more than 7,500 tonnes of silver are used in the manufacturing of iPads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, notebook, PC’s, smartphones, and more, and recovering this metal when the device is discarded could be worth $21 billion a year.
Currently it is estimated that only 10-15% of the gold in e-waste is actually being recovered.
Despite the wealth in gold and silver, Laexis Vandendaelen of Umicore Metals Refining in Belgium, claims that a huge wealth also lies in the copper, tin, cobalt, palladium, and plastics used. In fact recycling just half of the plastics in e-waste in the EU alone would save 5 million kilowatt hours of energy, more than 3 million barrels of oil, and reduce carbon emissions by nearly 2 million metric tonnes.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com