Urban mining is a modern solution for tackling some of our planet’s top issues including waste management, resource deficits, environmental concerns, and much more. By harvesting resources from used sources, we can limit our dependence on raw materials, and promote a circular style of economy. However, mining such materials needs to be performed with the health and safety of the environment and the human community in mind. Sepro has worked with industry experts to create these types of urban mining solutions.

To help you understand the benefits of urban mining and how it works, we’ve put together a list of five things you need to know. If you have any questions at all about urban mining or our e-waste solutions, contact Sepro Urban Mining today.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. There were over 50 million metric tons of e-waste generated last year.

That’s equivalent to 244,957 Statues of Liberty. This number is only expected to grow as discretionary income increases among the world’s population, while prices for tech goods drop. All of this waste is posing a problem for recycling centres and governments. 

Have you ever noticed that after two or three years your phone and other gadgets start slowing down? Many tech companies incorporate planned obsolescence into their devices, forcing you to upgrade to a newer model faster than you probably would like. This adds to the growing e-waste problem.

2. Your tech products contain a treasure trove of resources.

Do you know which metals are in your phone? Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common materials found in an everyday smartphone:

  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Palladium
  • Cobalt
  • Lithium
  • Lead
  • Tin
  • Zinc
  • Gallium
  • Indium
  • Iron
  • Chromium
  • Niobium
  • Tantalum
  • Titanium
  • Mercury

Some of these metals, like gold and palladium, are precious, while others, like mercury and lead, are toxic. The goal of urban mining is to recover the reusable and precious metals while generating a clean waste stream for the toxic ones, focusing on environmental sustainability.

3. Your neighbourhood recyclers might not be disposing of e-waste properly.

There are many companies around North America that promise safe and responsible disposal of e-waste. While many of these recycling centres are legitimate, there are just as many that are not. These centres choose to send their waste to developing nations where a lack of environmental regulations and worker protection laws mean that the waste is handled dangerously.

Burning the plastic off of cellphones in poorly ventilated areas emits pollutants which are breathed in by workers. Burying old batteries causes heavy metals to leach into soil and groundwater, harming the environment and affecting the health of local communities.

It’s imperative that e-waste is handled properly for the safety of both people and the environment!

4. Proper disposal of electronics has benefits for people and the environment.

When urban mining is used to recover valuable resources, it decreases the demand for virgin metals to be mined by traditional methods and thus preserves the natural environment. You might think to yourself that the amount of material in your phone is so little that it probably doesn’t amount to anything. But think of it this way: over 2 billion people have smartphones and they replace them every few years. When you add up all of this potential e-waste, the amount of gold and other metals is substantial.

In fact, 1 million smartphones could deliver 34kg of gold, 14,000kg of copper, 15kg of palladium, and 350kg of silver. Additionally, 1 tonne of smartphones could yield up to 300 times more gold than 1 tonne of gold ore.

While there are obvious environmental benefits to urban mining, it is also a lucrative business. Recovered metal concentrates can be sold directly to refiners at a profit, and there is no shortage of valuable metals to find within e-waste and our cities.

5. Sepro offers multiple urban mining solutions.

At Sepro Urban Mining, we have developed a process to economically recover precious metals, heavy metals, and rare-earth elements from e-waste sources. Our methods generate waste streams that can be safely disposed of, which is good for both people and the environment. 

We have also developed techniques for recovering valuable metals from incinerator bottom ash, which is the waste produced by incineration facilities. After waste has been burned at extremely high temperatures, there remain bits of metal, like gold, that can be recovered. Incinerator bottom ash is another effective urban mining solution.

To learn more about our e-waste or incinerator bottom ash solutions, contact Sepro Urban Mining today.