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Research & Technology

Recycled electronic waste is becoming the goldmine of sustainability

Around 45 million tons of electronic waste accumulate worldwide every year, with no end in sight. The amount of waste produced in 2016 alone contains raw materials worth 55 billion US dollars. Exploiting these treasures makes both ecological and economic sense.

26 Apr. 2018
Recycled electronic waste is becoming the goldmine of sustainability (Photo: University of the United Nations)

The global volume of electronic waste is expected to rise to more than 50 million tons by 2021. In its Global E-waste Monitor 2017, which it published together with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the International Solid Waste Association, the University of the United Nations calculates that 4500 Eiffel Towers could be produced from the annual waste of materials.

Only 20% of the electrical waste is recycled worldwide to date, even though it contains valuable raw materials such as gold, silver, copper, platinum or palladium. Their value in 2016 amounted to about 55 billion US dollars. Urban mining of electronic waste is thus a good use of resources and even pays off: in China, gold and copper are now much cheaper for companies to recycle from old tube TVs than by primary mining. This is shown by a study by researchers from Tsinghua University and the Australian Macquarie University, published in "Environmental Science & Technology".