What, no IoT or Bitcoin angle?
The organising committee for the Tokyo 2020 Summer and Paralympic games has announced that medals at the games will be made from recycled electronics. The committee has “invited the Japanese population to give to the organising committee its discarded or obsolete electronic devices in order to use the metal in the production …
So, if a typical phone contains say 0.03g of gold*, it's going to take over a million of them to get 40 kilos. Sounds a lot, but seeing that well over 30 million phones are sold each year in Japan, it would only take a few percent of users upgrading to donate their old models to get the required quantity.
* This figure is based on a 2011 estimate for the iPhone at 0.034g but then reduced to take account of the fact that gold is getting too expensive these days so it's gradually being replaced by other metals where appropriate
I'm sure Tim Worstall, formerly of this parish, would have an opinion on this but as people don't regularly mine phones for gold am I right in thinking this may end up costing more than just buying the gold. At least part of this is the cost of the energy in extracting it from the phone and the use of chemicals which may actually make it worse environmentally than the traditional method of obtaining it.
So certainly more expensive than using virgin materials, and very likely worse for the environment. But "environmentalism" appears to be about symbolic gestures, so that's alright then. I've a far better idea for saving the planet. Make the Olympic medals out of recycled plastic bottle tops. The material is low cost, energy consumption of melting and mixing is low, genuine alternative uses are somewhat limited and low value, and the colours are all readily available.
Admittedly the athletes might be unimpressed by plastic medals, but hopefully they'll appreciate that it is the taking part that counts. And in any event, given that they all seem to be on performance enhancers, or mysteriously needing TUE, most of 'em only deserve a plastic medal.....
Well, I wouldn't say that I'd specifically go out to get phones to recycle them for the gold. But there are people who do mine them and do so productively.
There're a couple of caveats though.
1) No one metal makes the process worthwhile. If you were doing 80s PCs with 200 nm Au plating on the pins them maybe that would be enough in revenue. And if anyone's got some old analogue telephone switches then it's worth hand clipping them for the gold content (have actually watched this being done).
For modern equipment you want the Sn, Cu, Au out and maybe they'll just about cover your costs. Add in not paying Landfill Tax and you're about there.
It might be possible to go further, take the Ta out, but not much more.
2) The other side of this is what are you allowed to throw away? If, once you've started mulching stuff this becomes chemicals waste or some such, with higher disposal costs, you might well find that landfilling the original phones makes more sense.
It's a delicate balance between the two, revenue and final disposal costs. Can go either way dependent.
What certainly doesn't get paid for is the cost of collecting widely dispersed waste into one place. Paying for that has to come from elsewhere. Could be like this. Or, the people who collect today usually try out those that still work and sell them in poor countries. That's the extra revenue that makes the whole system work. Just recycling for the metals costs will not and cannot pay for the costs of the whole system, including collection.
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018