Upcycling E-Waste

Our mission is to push for a metal supply chain that predominantly comes from recycled e-waste from high-tech recyclers, inventing and applying the cleanest green chemistry on Earth. We believe this is where Generation jewelry can inspire the jewelry world and make the most impact. 

Switching to 100% recycled gold used in the jewelry sector alone would avoid 0.18% (or 62 MtCO2) of the world’s emission every year. The World Bank estimated that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the global emission. By using recycled gold for jewelry, we can decarbonize 1.4%-1.8% the entire fashion industry.

The environmental impacts of mining can be significant. Looking at gold alone, it has been estimated that the net environmental benefit of recycling gold is ~$1,600 per gram versus the current price of gold at $60 per gram. In other words, for every gram of recycled gold we buy, we avoid $1,600 of damage to the environment that mined gold would've caused. 

E-WASTE 

E-waste is increasingly becoming a huge problem in our society. New electronics now have shorter lifecycles and limited repair options, causing the consumers to replace their devices when a new model debuts or the current one incurs a damage. 

Electronics mass consumerism results in 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. Then in 2019 alone, the world discarded a record amount of e-waste: 53.6Mt. That is equivalent to discarding ~5,300 Eiffel towers in a year. Or, if the waste electronicwere loaded into containers on a train, the train would stretch once around the Earth. The Global E-waste Monitor projects that this volume will grow as our society invents and consumes technology at a faster rate.

We know that e-waste has 50x more gold than mineral ores so we are pushing for recycled metals from e-waste. By doing this, we hope to increase the recycling rate of e-waste, which was only at 17.4% in 2019. 

It is estimated that the U.S. was responsible for ~13% of the global e-waste in 2019. 

HIGH-TECH RECYCLERS 

We source our precious metals from the most innovative and reputable high-tech recyclers in the U.S. Recycled gold has a smaller footprint than new gold, but the recycling process itself can be quite toxic and inefficient if not done well.

“Recycled in itself doesn't mean it's sustainable. Some recyclers could be damaging to the environment. I want to push for really good recycling.” -- Boryana Straubel, Generation Founder in an interview with Vogue Business on the future of sustainable jewelry. 

For example, to eliminate waste, the U.S. exported its discarded electronics to South Asia and Africa. This dumping results in urban mining, where local communities scrap these products for rare metals using inefficient and toxic processes. Informal urban miners might burn the materials in the open air, treat them in an acid bath, and improperly dispose of the acid or toxic metal such as mercury. 

The results can be devastating. A study found that children in Guiyu, China, a hotspot for e-waste dumping at the time, had radically elevated levels of lead in their blood. Even with a small amount, lead poisoning in children severely impedes physical and mental development. At high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

We pride ourselves with a clean, highly responsible and sustainable supply chain. We are extremely selective when choosing  where our metals come from. Our recyclers have  innovative recycling infrastructure with high-tech processes and proper waste disposal. Their processes are 200-300x better for the environment compared to primary mining. As a result, Generation jewelry avoids 97-99% of the energy, water, and carbon emission.

We find the achievement of upcycling e-waste into investment jewelry beautiful. We hope you do too.