For most people disposing of electronic waste is an afterthought and used devices are often thrown into drawers and forgotten. Few people realize that the unwanted gadgets could be a gold mine.
About 320 metric tons of gold and more than 7,500 tons of silver are used each year in manufacturing electronic devices.
China is the second-largest producer of e-waste, with an estimated 2.3 million tons of such waste generated annually.
“Precious metal ‘deposits’ in e-waste are 40 to 50 times richer than ore mined from the ground,” said Lai Yun, director of the pollution control project at Greenpeace China. “The quantities of gold, silver and other precious metals available for recovery are increasing in tandem with fast-increasing sales of electronic and electrical goods.”
Computers, for example, are 54 percent steel, 20 percent copper and aluminum, 17 percent plastic and 8 percent circuit board, all valuable when they are recycled.
This could be a very lucrative business, said by Lai.
The only problem is the lack of recycling channels and financial incentives such as Clear it waste London .
A study by the E-waste Civil Action Network, a Beijing NGO, found that convenience is the first thing most people take into consideration when disposing of used electronic products.
Without convenient channels for the public to recycle e-waste, most people choose either to put the devices aside somewhere or dispose of them together with other household trash, the study found.
It’s impossible for us to allocate personnel to all households to for rubbish clearance service of e-waste – the cost would simply be too high for us,” said Yuan Jie, manager of the Green Spring Environmental Co, one of the four qualified operations in Beijing that process e-waste.
In China, most e-waste is recycled informally, by scavengers who sort trash by hand. Most electronics contain toxic substances and pose serious threats to health, soil and groundwater when collected and sorted and incinerated outdoors, said by Yuan.
“The electronic gadgets ending up in the hands of the waste collectors do not turn into precious metals, but serious pollution, yet people keep going to them,” added by Yuan.
Mao Da, an expert in solid-waste management at Beijing Normal University, said that all cell phone components contain hazardous substances, including lead, chromium and mercury. When buried in a landfill or incinerated with other household trash, they seriously pollute soil and groundwater with the dioxin and mercury contained in the batteries.