Finding gold in computer, smartphone waste

Scientists say exploiting gold mines is not the only way to obtain gold. The source with the most potential is electronic waste. For every ton of smartphone waste, there are 350 grams of gold.

People are now talking about ‘urban mining’, which means finding precious metals in urban areas instead of metal mines in remote areas. More and more countries are paying attention to exploiting metals from local electronic waste "mountains" .

Finding gold in computer, smartphone waste



Containing substances with high levels of toxin such as lead, mercury and cadmium, and other toxic chemicals, electronic waste causes serious pollution to the environment.

When the mountains of electronic waste are burnt for destruction, the process harms the environment and people.

However, the waste could be turned into precious resources if people could take full advantage of it.

Scientists have found that every ton of electronic waste could contain gold
17 times higher than one ton of metal ore, and the figure is 40 times for copper.

People are now talking about ‘urban mining’, which means finding precious metals in urban areas instead of metal mines in remote areas. More and more countries are paying attention to exploiting metals from local electronic waste "mountains" .

Every year, 50 million electronic devices turn into waste.

According to the Environment Technology Institute, an arm of the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Vietnam discharges 120,000-150,000 household-use electrical and electronic devices, including TVs, refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners, and 250,000-300,000 computers. There are many smartphones thrown away by users.

 

In Vietnam, electronic waste is collected through unofficial channels by scrap dealers or unregistered units which provide waste to craft villages. The recycling activities carried out in Vietnam are just preliminary treatment.

The electronic waste still doesn’t have much significance to Vietnam because there are still no electronic waste recycling activities.

The problem doesn’t lie in the lack of technology or the Vietnamese capability of mastering technology, but in the lack of a legal framework for the activities to be carried out.

Businesses said they are willing to invest in recycling activities, but they still cannot see the benefits they can get clearly.

Vietnam has many legal documents on dealing with electronic waste, including the Prime Minister’s Decision No 50/2013 on recalling and treating discarded products; Circular No 12/2011 from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment on hazardous waste management; and the 2014 Law on Environment Protection which says the import of waste is prohibited.

However, the legal documents are not enough to form a system of policies to effectively manage the collection and treatment of e-waste, including classification, collection and recycling.

Mai Lan

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