Far More Gold Is in E-Waste than in Gold Ore

Kyle Wiens/CC BY-NC 3.0
Electronic waste contains 40-50 times the amount of gold in ore mined from the ground, according to a report last week by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative and the United Nations University.

According to the report, between 2001 and 2011, the electronics industry as a whole went from using 197 to 320 tons of gold. This seems counterintuitive, because compared to computers of thirty years ago, today's computers have less gold inside—chips often have tiny gold microplated pins rather than solid gold wiring. But we are making many more electronics, and even more products are becoming computerized. Everything from blenders to toy dinosaurs have microchips, most of which have some gold.

Also, devices have gotten smaller, and less of the volume of electronic scrap is composed of bulky CRTs and heavy cases. So it's no surprise that e-waste contains so much gold.

Nevertheless, no more than 15% of the gold in e-waste is being recovered in recycling processes. We are throwing away a lot of gold. The report cites Ruediger Kuehr, Executive Secretary of the Solving the E-Waste Problem Initiative:

One day—likely sooner than later—people will look back on such costly inefficiencies and wonder how we could be so short sighted and wasteful of natural resources.

Just one more reason to recycle your electronics responsibly. Earth911 can help you find an electronics recycler near you.

Tags: E-Waste | Recycling