Recycle your smartphone to recover the gold, it will soon be possible

The Royal Mint has partnered with Excir, a Canadian cleantech start-up, to bring technology to the UK to recover and recycle gold and other precious metals from electronic waste.

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Small amounts of precious metals are embedded in printed circuit boards of your smartphones or laptops. The problem is, these electronic devices will one day be thrown away, thus increasing the amount of electronic waste thrown away each year around the world. 53.6 million tonnes of electronic waste were generated worldwide in 2019, according to United Nations figures.

Less than 20% of this waste has been recycled, which has resulted in the loss of more than 48 billion euros of precious metals, including gold or silver. To stem this problem, British coin maker Royal Mint has partnered with Excir, whose technology allows it to recover more than 99% of the gold, silver and other metals found in electronic waste.

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Royal Mint wants to recycle your smartphones to recover precious metals

The British state-owned coin maker hopes to use the chemistry-based technology within the next few months. Royal Mint will use this technology to recover precious metals at room temperature on its South Wales site. The company also said that the tests had already made it possible to produce gold with a purity of 999.9. Eventually, it should be possible to extract palladium, copper and silver as well.

Experts estimate that up to 7% of the world’s gold could be contained in electronic waste. We would find 100 times more gold in a ton of electronic waste than in a ton of gold ore, so it is crucial to be able to quickly extract that gold from old smartphones or old laptops.

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Several initiatives are already underway to try to reduce the number of electronic waste. We are thinking in particular of Germany, which wants to require 7 years of updates and spare parts for Android and iOS smartphones, or Europe, which wants to impose a single USB-C charger on Apple by 2024.

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