It takes 100 tons of gold ore to get 10 ounces of the precious metal, said Privahini Bradoo, CEO of BlueOak Resources, a California-based startup that launched a large “urban mining” facility in Arkansas in 2014. But BlueOak and other recyclers can extract the same amount of gold from just one ton of printed circuit boards. Silver, too, is used in circuit boards, as well as RFID tags, CDs, DVDs and plasma display screens. BlueOak notes that, in addition to the money to be made from gold and silver, an amount equal to a third of global copper mining is thrown away with e-waste every year around the world. That’s why a single recycling facility can remove $75 million in valuable metals from e-waste annually.
According to an article in Forbes, “There’s gold in them thar’ hills — except not nearly as much as in all the computers, cellphones and sundry electronic equipment we make and then discard.” Every year, approximately $21 billion in gold and silver is used in the manufacturing of new electronic devices, reported VentureBeat, and that adds up to 320 tons of gold and 7.5 tons of silver. (Mercury is not a valuable metal, but it’s extremely toxic in the environment and recyclers do a great service by removing it from electronics.)