Electronic waste output is expected to exceed 50 million metric tons in 2021, compounding the current environmental and health impacts of this problem. Only around fifteen percent of the precious metal is discarded harvesting valuable metals from traditional mining is thirteen times more expensive than obtaining them through so-called “urban mining.”
This article examines the study and takes a broader look at the scope of the e-waste problem and the urban industry.
As consumers toss out their smartphones to replace them with newer versions, televisions become flatter and higher tech, and technology reaches more and more people around the globe, the amount of electronic waste grows. In fact, in 2016, the United Nation’s Global E-waste Monitor report found that more than 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste were released into the environment.
That’s around 4,500 Eiffel Towers, according to the report. And researches estimate that, in 2021, more than 50 million metric tons of e-waste will be discarded.
But those endless heaps of discarded iPhones and laptops could almost literally be worth their weight in gold, according to an April 2018 study. This research, published in the Journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that the metals in discarded electronics have a real value—and that it makes the economic sense to harvest them through “urban mining” instead of extracting them from the earth.
The Economics of E-Waste and the Cost to the Environment
The researchers behind this study examined date from eight Chinese recycling to analyse the economic efficiency of pulling metals from e-waste. They looked at the costs of labor, device collection, transportation, facilities, and equipment.
Taking some government subsidies into consideration, these researchers found that harvesting valuable metals from traditional mining was 13 times more expensive than harvesting them from e-waste.
Read More About E-Waste:
Recycling Is Not The Answer To The E-Waste Crisis
The Significance of E-Waste Management In the backdrop of Current IT Boom