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Precious Metals in Electronics

Which Precious Metals – and just how much – are hidden inside your unused electronics?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided projections on the amount of Precious Metals that may be found in America’s devices and the information is staggering: “One metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the amount of Gold and 30 to 40 times the amount of Copper mined from one metric ton of ore in the U.S.”

The EPA also reminds us that our cell phones alone contain Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium, as well as Copper, tin and zinc. If we committed to recovering these materials, they could be used for other applications including further production of electronics, the automotive industry, jewelry making and art. 

Experts calculate that there are more cell phones in the U.S. than there are citizens, and there are more than 329 million of us. Even as we turn our attention to more practical electronics, the numbers remain fascinating. We expect smartphones to be on the cutting edge of technology, but an old desktop computer alone holds a considerable amount of Precious Metal worth recovering. 

One breakdown of the Precious Metal content of an old, disused computer includes Gold, a key part of most circuit boards due to its conductivity, malleability and resistance to corrosion, as well as the Silver and Palladium that make up the components and soldering of many circuit boards. Also appearing on the list were Copper, iron and steel.

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