Gold in Gadgets ‘worth more than £10bn’

July 7, 2012 at 08:21


Each year an estimated 320 tons of gold is used worldwide to make mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices, it has been disclosed.

The total value of all the gadget gold is more than £10 billion, yet only around 15% of it is ever recovered from electronic waste, a meeting was told.

In rich and poor countries alike, at least 85% of the e-waste gold is lost, analysts said.

Manufacturing electronic products also consumes more than 7,500 tons of silver per year, experts said at the E-Waste Academy meeting in Accra, Ghana.

“More sustainable consumption patterns and material recycling are essential if consumers are to continue to enjoy high-tech devices that support everything from modern communications to smart transport, intelligent buildings and more,” said Luis Neves, chairman of the Global e-sustainability Initiative (GeSI).

Electronic waste now contains precious metal “deposits” 40 to 50 times richer than ores mined from the ground, the meeting heard.

The amount of gold taken up by gadgets was said to be rising at a fast rate in tandem with new developments such as tablet computers.

In 2001, they used up 5.3% of the world’s supply, around 197 tons. By last year, this figure had risen to 7.7%, or 320 tons – equal to 2.5% of the US gold reserves in Fort Knox and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Making high-tech devices required gold and silver together worth £13.5 billion – equal to the Gross Domestic Product of El Salvador.

Alexis Vandendaelen, of Belgium-based Umicore Precious Metals Refining, said: “Rather than looking at e-waste as a burden, we need to see it as an opportunity.”