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article imageUrban e-waste data platform could help in recycling minerals

By Karen Graham     Jan 17, 2018 in Technology
A group of 17 organizations on Wednesday launched an online database for 'urban mining' detailing precious raw materials slumbering in discarded batteries, electronics, and cars across the E.U.
E-waste, which includes anything with a plug or a battery, and this includes vehicles, have been included in the Urban Mining Platform created by 17 partners in project ProSUM (Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes) after researchers completed the first survey of valuable materials they say are waiting to be mined from Europe's vast landfills and scrapyards.
The database highlights where "urban miners" can find minerals and raw materials in discarded batteries, electronics, and cars across the continent. The group points out that the amount of valuable materials lost or discarded annually is equal to roughly 18 million tons in all -- the weight of 3 million African elephants.
A staggering 44.7 million metric tons (Mt) was generated globally in 2016 — up 3.3 Mt or eight percent from 2014, and this includes a million tons of chargers alone. And if you think there is no money in all this waste, you are wrong. Only 20 percent of the e-waste accumulated in 2016 was recycled.
The EU, Norway, and Switzerland generated around 10.5 million tons of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2016, or about 23 percent of the world's total. Additionally, two million tons of batteries and 7 to 9 million tons of EU vehicles reach the end of their life every year.
TV and Computer Monitor Recycling Pen This pen is at the Gravel Pit Lane recycling facility.The chan...
TV and Computer Monitor Recycling Pen This pen is at the Gravel Pit Lane recycling facility.The change from CRT to Flat Panel technology is responsible for an enormous amount of electronic waste.
David Wright (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Would it surprise you to know the estimated value of recoverable materials in last year's e-waste was $64.6 billion (55 billion euros), which is more than the 2016 Gross Domestic Product of most countries in the world?
Urban miners now have the opportunity to find rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium, lithium, cobalt, and other high-value recoverable materials in much of the e-waste being discarded. And the group says vehicles are becoming a rich source of metals, like lithium from electric cars, as well as steel and magnesium.
And Smartphones are really a great find. Did you know a Smartphone has concentrations of gold that are more than 25 times as high as the richest underground ores, and they are a lot easier to mine?
Pascal Leroy, secretary general of the WEEE Forum, said: “Three years in the making, this consolidated database is the world’s first ‘one-stop shop’ knowledge data platform on critical raw materials in waste products – easy to access, structured, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, up-to-date, impartial, broad in scope, standardised, harmonised and verifiable.”
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