E-WASTE: THE MINE OF THE FUTURE
Did you know that your smartphone consists of 40 different elements that can be reused? Processors can extract valuable materials such as gold, cobalt and copper from end-of-life mobile phones and other electronic devices. At Recupel, we want to convince everyone to get rid of their old devices, as this will have a positive impact on our environment and society.
Most of us will have broken or unused devices gathering dust at home. There are an estimated 46 million of them, all of which contain components and materials that can be reused. If we were to collect all of these phones, we would create our own urban mine in Belgium.
Experts agree that our raw material reserves are dwindling. The mines are being depleted, yet the demand for precious metals, indium, lead, etc., is not decreasing. To keep up with this growing demand, we need as many materials from end-of-life devices as possible.
Electrical and electronic equipment contains cobalt, palladium and rare earth metals. Europe regards these materials as ‘critical’. There are two reasons for this:
Some metals can now be produced more cheaply through urban mining than conventional mining. Already, urban mining is costing much less energy per kilo of metal produced than primary production.
Sometimes, old devices disappear abroad through illegal channels and are dumped in enormous landfills. Young children remove the metals from the garbage and sell them to earn some money. This is dangerous, as electronic appliances contain hazardous materials that must be disposed of correctly. Some countries, such as China, have already banned waste imports from abroad. To cut off these channels entirely, urban mining in our own countries must become the norm.
“The proportion of electrical and electronic waste in the waste stream is growing, despite the opportunities to collect and recycle it correctly. E-waste and mobile phones in particular contain valuable, scarce materials. These materials can be recovered and recycled in a sustainable way using high-tech recycling processes, such as at Umicore in Hoboken. They can then be reused in the production of new devices or new applications such as clean mobility. Recycling has enormous advantages for the environment, economy, employment, and technology. Together, these advantages are the perfect stimulus to redouble efforts in terms of collection and recycling of e-waste for a sustainable future.”Thierry Van Kerckhoven, Head of Supply Recyclables, Umicore Precious Metals Refining
Still not convinced?
Then check our impressive figures: