Production of computers, mobile phones, TVs and other electronic products used a staggering 320 tonnes of gold and more than 7,500 tonnes of silver every year, revealed by the Global E-Sustainability Initiatives (GESI), a collaboration between technology companies and the United Nations*. Some of the gold used also come from the 1,000 tonnes of recycled gold annually.
Computers and other electronic devices also carry many metals such as platinum, palladium, copper, nickel and zinc. Gold is used as a thin layer in the interior of electronics. They are preferred to silver as it does not corrode with open-air.
Gold is located in:-
- Motherboards along the edges of most components and connectors where the wires slide in.
- Central processing unitwhere there are hundreds of gold-plated pins are around the edge and under surface.
- Random Access Memory Chips which contain a small but significant amount of gold-plated pins.
- Internal modems, PC boards, ethernet parts, graphics processing unit (GPU) and drives which contain some amount of gold.
What is the value of gold in these electronic gadgets? According to SD Bullion, US$6 of gold is layered in an average laptop or 1/10 of a gram; US$10 of gold layered in an average computer or 1/5 of a gram; and a few US dollars or 1/35 of a gram for a mobile phone.
When consumers worldwide dumped their electronic gadgets because of obsolescence, upgrade to new models or improved technological advancements, these cumulative collection of e-waste amounts to as much as 50 million tonnes a year. They are worth over U$62.5 billion. Of this, there are 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of ore.
To extract the gold and other 16 different metals from the e-waste, this must be done in a safe and sustainable way. For decades, industrialised countries have disposed large quantities of e-waste by exporting to developing countries where impoverished families work in toxic and hazardous conditions to recycle e-waste materials manually.
The current practice of extracting gold from e-waste is through the use of toxic chemicals such as cyanide and harsh acids. This practice is harmful not only to the environment but also to mankind. Companies doing the recycling of e-waste must extract gold safely, sustainably and ethically.
Clean Earth Technologies has a non-toxic gold recovery reagent that extracts gold cleanly and sustainably without the use of cyanide and harsh acids. This process features a novel and safe way to rapidly leach the gold in high yield and then use an award-winning, patented sulphur polymer to recover the gold.