If you were determined to find a positive in the news that we generated the weight of 4,500 Eiffel Towers in electronic waste in 2016, you might cling to one solitary fact. The report estimated that buried in this e-waste mountain is an estimated $55 billion worth of precious metals.
Yes, the EU, Switzerland and Norway combined may generate over ten million tonnes of e-waste per year, but hidden in that disgusting indictment of our throw-away culture is an opportunity. There’s gold (and copper and aluminium and more) in them thar hills.
That’s good to know, but where and in what quantities? The question that would once have elicited a shrug now has a more definite answer as ProSUM (Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes) unveils the Urban Mine Platform. It’s a database of valuable materials ripe for scrap mining encompassing e-waste, scrap vehicles and spent batteries.
As the project is backdated, you can see the changing makeup of our e-waste mountain over time. You can see elements increasing (plastic and aluminium), stablising (gold and copper), declining (printed circuit boards) and those which are now extinct (cathode ray tubes, for example.) Most fascinatingly of all, Minerals4EU, a co-project of ProSUM, has mapped the mining waste data, to illustrate exactly where mining waste mountains are. These deposits are described as “commonly very large, but of low metal grade.”