A huge amount of money is spent every year on the precious metals that go into IT and telecoms devices. As a result, recycling electronics to reclaim the gold and silver, a process known as urban mining, is becoming big business. The infographic below gives some idea of the scale.
Review: There’s a lot to be gained from reclaiming precious metals in this way, particularly if they’re in short supply in the first place. But that’s only one part of recycling and the broader sustainability equation is not so straightforward.
The danger is that products will be recycles purely for the value of these metals, without also ensuring that all other components and materials are reclaimed where possible. In any case, recycling should not be the first action at a products end of life (see my previous post). The best option, particularly for IT equipment, is to extend its life through reuse.
Ultimately, though, products will need to be taken apart to reclaim materials and the fact that some of those materials are of significant value provides a real incentive not to simply dump unwanted electronics in landfill.