The rapid global rise in technology, tied in with consumer pressures for upgrades in functionality and design, has generated advanced electrical and electronic equipment with short lifespans. A consequence of this is the production of electronic waste (e-waste) which, in 2018 amounted to 50 million tonnes, with a projected annual growth of 3–5%, three times more than for other waste streams.
It is estimated that recycling one ton of mobile phones could produce on average 130 kg of copper, 3.5 kg of silver, 0.34 kg of gold and 0.14 kg of Pd. On this basis, the global e-waste management market is projected to produce an annual revenue of USD 62.5 billion by the end of 2020.
With an estimated 97% of the world population owning a mobile phone, it can be viewed as a plentiful feedstock for a recycling process. As such, the treatment of e-waste not only helps minimise the environmental impact of our technology-driven society by reducing pollution and energy demands compared to conventional mining practice, it also presents economic drivers for wealth creation and circular economies.
Read the full study about the challenges and opportunities in the recovery of gold from electronic waste here.