Yesterday (October 14) - The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) announced the launch of their Critical Raw Materials (CRM) project, funded European Commission’s LIFE programme, which will explore the commercial opportunities for recovering raw materials and precious metals from electronic waste.
This isn't a new concept, 'Urban Mining' has been around for some time and there are businesses already utilising this e-waste resource.
It takes 41 mobile phones to yield 1 gram of gold, which might sound like a lot until you realise that approximately 1.86 billion mobile phones were sold in 2013.
In Silicon Valley the concept has already taken off, one example of which is a $35m backed start-up BlueOak Resources which is building a brand-new 'urban mining' facility in California dedicated to recovering valuable metals such as gold, silver, copper and palladium from the growing mountains of e-waste currently threatening to overwhelm the planet.
“Every day, U.S. consumers dispose of enough cell phones to cover 50 football fields,” said Privahini Bradoo, BlueOak’s chief executive.
Although between 7% and 10% of the world’s gold and 30% of the silver produced goes into electronics, only 15% of the 50 million tons of e-waste created globally each year undergoes any recycling, Bradoo said. Instead, the vast majority of devices are dumped in landfills or exported to countries where e-waste is hand-picked over open fires.
The city of Guiyu, China —widely considered the world’s e-waste capital—receives some 4,000 tons of e-waste per hour. It also has the highest-ever recorded level of dioxins, and 90% of its residents have neurological damage, Bradoo said. “Not only is it a humanitarian disaster, but when we looked at the value contained in e-scrap, it was shocking,” she added.
BlueOak’s new refinery will process 15 million pounds of electronic scrap per year initially, bringing 50 new technical waste jobs to the area and production will begin by the end of 2015.
So, although it is encouraging to see WRAP leading the CRM project, you can't help think that they are a bit behind the curve.