Thursday, January 18, 2018

Urban Mining

Some of Europe’s richest deposits of valuable materials are in the trash, ranging from gold in smartphones to cobalt in electric car batteries, according to a study of urban mining, “Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Waste” (ProSUM).

Scrap vehicles, batteries, computers, fridges and other electronic and electrical waste total about 18 million tonnes a year and contain materials worth billions of dollars, the report said, urging more recycling

 Smartphone, for instance, has a concentration of gold 25 to 30 times that of the richest primary gold ores.

With sales rising, it shows that electric cars will become a source of materials such as neodymium, lithium and cobalt in coming years.

Last month, another study showed that the world’s electronic scrap in 2016 contained 55 billion euros ($67.29 billion) of valuable materials, most of them squandered because of low recycling rates. Researchers last year detected 3 tonnes of silver and 43 kg of gold in effluent and sludge from waste water treatment plants - amounting to around 3 million Swiss francs ($3.1 million).

 Costs of recycling waste and rapid switches in technology deter investments in urban mining. Waste copper found in old-fashioned cathode ray screens, for example, has been falling across Europe since a 2011 peak with the shift to flat screen televisions and computers.

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