The recycling and mining industries may seem like mortal enemies, but in reality they have more in common than you might think; and they also share the same fundamental problems.
Both industries rely heavily on material concentration. When we throw out recyclable goods, these items are dispersed over various locations, landfill, scrapyards, or your neighbour’s lawn – wherever you decide to discard your rubbish, the concentration is significantly reduced, energy is then expended in its retrieval. Similarly, Mother Nature has decided to hide all her goodies in various locations around the globe, usually under God knows how many layers of rock, it’s like a vast, violent industrial scale Easter Egg hunt, and think how much energy we have all used running around the garden in search of chocolate.
European dependency on rare earths imports is becoming a major economic and political issue, leading businesses and NGO’s are predicting this dependency to increase unless greater emphasis is placed on resource efficiency and a competitive recycling market.
Environmental experts are agreed that we need to change the way we manage our resources. One very effective method is 'urban mining', a term used to describe the recovery of raw materials from waste products – basically, it’s a fancy way of saying ‘recycling our rubbish'.
Almost every electrical household appliance contains an abundance of precious metals that when extracted from a virgin source takes an awful amount of energy to be ripped out of the ground. Take gold for example, in a primary gold mine, one tonne of ore yields a fairly paltry five grams of gold, whereas a similar weight of discarded circuit boards produces 250 grams, and a tonne of mobile phones returns 300-350 grams. But the fact that only 2% of mobile phones are currently recycled is perhaps the most surprising statistic.
Mobile phone recycling is potentially a hugely profitable market, which bizarrely, remains relatively untapped, think of all that gold you have sitting around the house, locked up in gadgets. Recycling mobile phones is the safest, greenest, most cost efficient method of raising a bit of extra dosh from your valuables. If you’re not entirely convinced by those shifty looking characters on the box imploring you to send off the family jewellery in the post, by selling mobiles phones you could make some serious cash for your gold, and your partner gets to keep her earrings.