Cell phones, laptops, computers and other electronics generated over 47 million metric tons of waste (known as e-waste) in 2017 and this number is growing at a rate of 3-5% per year. By 2021, it is expected that over 51 million metric tons of e-waste will be generated globally. Unfortunately, most of this waste will not be recycled. The EPA estimates that only 12.5% of e-waste is recycled while the rest of it ends up in landfills or shipped to developing countries, posing health risks for their communities and the environment. Urban mining presents a solution to this growing crisis as precious, rare, and even toxic metals can be recovered and reused in an environmentally safe way.
There are two main ways that urban mining is helping the environment:
- Preventing e-waste from being a significant source of pollution.
- Reducing our needs to mine virgin resources.
Prevents E-Waste From Polluting The Environment
To put this in perspective, let’s talk about cell phones. Right now your phone contains approximately 40 different toxic chemicals including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chlorine and bromine. While there is no evidence to suggest that these chemicals are dangerous to users (phew), they do harm our environment if they are disposed of incorrectly. These chemicals can potentially leak into the air from incineration or nearby groundwater if buried in landfills.
If these chemicals leach their way into the environment, they stay there for years without breaking down. They have been linked to a range of illnesses in people and animals including various cancers, kidney problems, reproductive issues and more.
Urban mining presents a solution to this e-waste problem. Sepro has developed an e-waste recycling solution that generates environmentally clean waste streams, free of toxic chemicals. We recover as much of the reusable materials as possible and then safely dispose of the toxic chemicals, preventing any possible leaks into the ecosystem.
Reduces Our Need To Harvest And Process Virgin Materials
Recovering metals from e-waste sources provide precious and rare metals like gold, silver, and palladium at staggering rates. For every one million cell phones that are properly recycled, it is estimated that we can recover over:
- 35,00 pounds of copper.
- 700 pounds of silver.
- 75 pounds of gold.
- 30 pounds of palladium.
Recycling e-waste leads to overall energy reduction as it takes less energy than mining, processing, and transporting raw virgin metals. It can potentially take 2 – 90 tons of ore to produce a single ounce of gold. The ore needs to be harvested, transported, crushed, and then the gold can be extracted. The same amount if harvested from cell phones would only take 1000 phones and Sepro Urban Mining’s e-waste solution.
It is also less expensive to recover these precious metals from urban mining versus traditional mining methods. When urban mining is done responsibly, we can decrease our reliance on raw materials and prevent e-waste from polluting our environment. To talk about responsible e-waste solutions, speak to an urban mining expert today.