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Where Trash Meets Treasure: E-Waste Recycling For Precious Metals

By Sebrina Zerkus Smith |
Electronic waste is growing globally at an alarming rate––about 40 million tons per year.  But there could be a bright note to this mounting problem.

Electronic waste is growing globally at an alarming rate––about 40 million tons per year. But there could be a bright note to this mounting problem. E-waste contains rare and sought after precious metals which, when recovered, will not only help save the planet, it can actually help save lives.

Did you know that most of the world’s mined precious metals will end up, not in jewelry or other valuables, but in common household electronics?

In fact, according to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report released in 2010, about 13 percent of palladium, 15 percent of cobalt, and 3 percent of silver and gold mined around the world each year goes into the manufacturing of electronic goods like mobile phones and personal computers.

And most of the mining used to extract these valuable metals is done in developing countries where children and adults alike toil for scant wages so we can enjoy iPads, cell phones and HDTVs. In traditional gold mining alone, an entire ton of ore must be moved to extract just one gram of gold.

But there is a solution to the increasing e-waste dilemma. E-cycling.

For instance, through a simpler and cheaper process than traditional mining, 1 gram of gold can be extracted from just 41 discarded cell phones. And the metals recovered can be reused almost indefinitely. E-cycling also recovers plastic and glass, which can be reused, making e-cycling even more commercially viable.

And while developed countries like the U.S. generally account for the majority of the electronics purchased worldwide, the U.S. is not the leader in e-waste disposal. Turns out, the U.S. and other countries routinely send e-waste right back to the very countries that supply the precious metals that create our electronics in the first place. Such waste can be a cause of toxic water pollution and other heath hazards, both to people and animals.

By taking your unwanted electronics to an authorized e-waste recycler, you not only keep e-waste out of landfills and encourage the recovery of precious metals that can help preserve our natural world, you might also be helping to make a child’s drinking water a little safer.

Find out how to e-cycle for precious metal recovery at eHow.com

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