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Posted Aug 13th, 2018

Urban Mining: It Pays To Help the Environment

With billions of people owning smartphones and other electronic gadgets, it’s not surprising that e-waste is one of the fastest growing threats to the environment. Any discarded product that is either battery- or electricity-operated is considered E-waste.

There’s a two-fold problem with e-waste: one is that consumers are so quick to upgrade and replace gadgets, which results in an unbelievable amount of natural resources spent on these products.

Another concern is that these gadgets remain stored away in most homes, albeit unused. Unlike perishable waste, it’s much harder for people to throw away laptops, TV, and similar devices. In fact, each family keeps around 80 broken or old devices on average.

In a report published by United Nations University, it was found that the fate of majority of e-wastes (a whopping 76%) is unknown, and are likely kept, traded or dumped hazardously in landfills.  That’s a significant amount of E-waste not being recycled.

Urban Mining As A Solution

Gadgets that do manage to enter the recycling chain undergo urban mining. This process is not only beneficial for the environment, but also has the potential to be quite profitable. A large variety of valuable materials and plastics are found in electric and electronic equipment (EEE).

Up to 60 precious metals are perfectly recoverable in urban mining, which include gold, silver, platinum, copper, and iron. Estimates put the potential value of raw materials in mobile phone waste alone to be as high as 9.4 billion Euros.

only 20% out of 44.5 million metric tons of e-waste were collected and recycled in 2016

Now, urban mining is actually not a new concept, as it has been implemented since 2010. However, there ‘s still a long way to go before countries are able to fully implement urban mining. The Global E-Waste Monitor has found that only 20% out of 44.5 million metric tons of e-waste were collected and recycled in 2016. Clearly, there’s still a lot to be done to boost urban mining.

One major hurdle to urban mining is that e-waste management is as complex as the production of these devices. High-tech facilities and engineers are needed to be able to process e-waste properly. There’s also a lack of comprehensive legislation focused on e-waste that can steer budget and standards for waste management and urban mining. Only 67 countries have e-waste laws.

Urban Mining Initiatives

The good news is, many companies worldwide are able to engage in e-waste management. In India for instance, Cerebra Integrated Technologies Limited is a forerunner for establishing collection sites and sophisticated waste recycling facilities. The company ensures that the recovery of elements like palladium, copper and gold are done with zero landfill or water contamination.

A South Korean factory, SungEel HiTech specializes in recycling the precious metals from used car batteries. These are welcome developments, especially since Asia is the largest contributor of e-waste among all continents.

In the western front, European companies are exploring more efficient and tech-based processes that can improve disassembling and treatment of devices. This way, valuable materials are fully retrieved and the process won’t be as labor intensive. Tech giant Apple introduced Daisy, a robot that recovers materials from old iPhones.

Waste Management That Supports Urban Mining

Effective waste management plays a key role in making urban mining efficient, since it channels e-waste to the appropriate recycling facilities. A good example is seen in England, where waste collectors are enjoining their office-based clients to segregate waste on site before collecting them.

In addition, waste firms look for ‘bespoke’ buyers aside from wholesalers to maximize disposal of more obscure materials.

If these creative solutions are galvanized and strengthened by legislations, there will be big changes on how e-waste can be tapped. V Ranganathan, the CEO and Founder of Cerebra Integrated, believes that the “glaring need” for people to be more mindful of protecting the environment falls largely on the shoulders of tech companies and service providers.

In essence, societies need to shift from a consumer-driven linear economy to a circular perspective. Reuse, repair, redistribution and remanufacture of e-waste should be preferred prior to creating devices from raw materials.

There is a valuable opportunity in the e-waste management scheme. Helping the environment, keeping natural resources in the loop and earning from the whole process is something that all of society should embrace.

Here at Securis, we can help you dispose of all your e-waste securely. Contact us now and we can destroy your data in a way that won’t put our planet at risk.

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