Print 59 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on May 2 at 6:49 PM

Old cell phones worth more ton for ton than a gold mine

A process called “urban mining” may have many rethinking simply throwing their old electronics into the trash can or tossing them into the junk drawer to collect dust. The so-called urban mining describes a process where old electronics like computers and cell phones are scavenged and ripped apart for their base metals like iridium and gold.

With metal prices hitting all time highs around the world, the urban mining business is booming. The metals recovered from the process are reused in new electronic devices and the gold and other precious metals are melted into ingots that can be used to create jewelry or used to create new electronic devices.

Gold is common in many electronic devices and components for its ability to better transfer electricity than copper. Tadahiko Sekigawa, president of Eco-System Recycling Co. told Reuters, “It can be precious or minor metals, we want to recycle whatever we can.”

It might not seem like there would be enough gold or other precious metals inside obsolete electronics to warrant the effort of recycling. On the contrary, used electronic devices are often a much better source of gold than actually having a small gold mine.

According to Reuters a ton of ore form a gold mine produces only 5 grams of gold on average. A ton of used cell phones can yield 150 grams of gold or more. In addition to the gold the same volume of discarded phones can have 220 pounds of copper and 6.6 pounds of silver as well as other metals.

The price of gold alone hit an all time high in March 2008 of $1,030.80 per ounce. One Eco-Systems recycling plant in Honjo, Japan produces around 440 to 660 pounds of gold bars per month with 99.99% purity. This amount of gold has a worth of about $5.9 to $8.8 million on today’s market. That's literally the same output as a small gold mine.

When the amount of money that can be made from recycling old electronic components for their base metals is taken into consideration it is easy to understand why Clover Technologies Group, the winner of the contract with the USPS for its mail-in recycling project, was willing to foot the bill for shipping. The amount of money also makes the fact that America ships tons of used electronics overseas each year look like American’s are doing someone a favor.

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Perhaps you meant this but...
By PurdueRy on 4/30/2008 3:58:29 PM , Rating: 5
Gold is not a better conductor than copper...its actually worse. Common misconception.

It only becomes better because copper can corrode...if this occurs then gold would be better. However, in its natural state free of copper oxide...Copper is a better conductor.

And, as an added note, Silver is the best naturally occurring metal conductor.

RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By vapore0n on 4/30/2008 4:10:33 PM , Rating: 2
What!? Are you challenging Monster Cable's gold plated gold connectors?

By BiffRapper on 5/2/2008 12:12:44 PM , Rating: 2
Monster cable is the gold standard in audio excellence!

RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By Master Kenobi on 4/30/08, Rating: 0
RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By TomZ on 4/30/2008 4:26:05 PM , Rating: 2
Huh? Are you suggesting that one metal is better for digital signals, and another better for analog signals? I don't think so.

The OP is right - copper has a lower resistivity, but gold is less prone to oxidation that raises contact resistance. That's why you tend to see gold used a lot on connectors, whereas copper is used for the conductors.

RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By therealnickdanger on 4/30/2008 4:33:29 PM , Rating: 2
Even a "digital" signal is still coverted to analog when transmitted along a cable... The ability of the cable to transmit will still always be better with copper (well, except for when it corrodes).

RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By jtemplin on 4/30/2008 4:39:54 PM , Rating: 1
Nah, its digital and analog...its that duality man! Not that it matters for your TV signal but just a fact that energy takes wave and particle properties...

By jtemplin on 5/1/2008 11:32:18 PM , Rating: 2
I understand you were referring to the encoding of the signal, but I wanted to bring up the point of quantum effects. I'm not disputing anything nickdanger said.

RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By croc on 5/1/2008 1:26:37 AM , Rating: 2
Huh??? Explain please, as my O'scope begs to differ...

By jtemplin on 5/1/2008 11:30:27 PM , Rating: 2
Your oscope finds what it is looking for. It fulfills its purpose but no more. Scientists have known for many years that matter and energy have the capability to propagate characteristic of either wave or particle.

Here is a quote from a seminal treatment on the topic of quantum theories of matter and energy,
“For both large and small wavelengths, both matter and radiation have both particle and wave aspects. ... But the wave aspects of their motion become more difficult to observe as their wavelengths become shorter. ... For ordinary macroscopic particles the mass is so large that the momentum is always sufficiently large to make the de Broglie wavelength small enough to be beyond the range of experimental detection, and classical mechanics reigns supreme.”

Ref: R. Eisberg and R. Resnick (1985). Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles, 2nd ed., John Wiley & Sons, 59-60.

From wiki on de Broglie:
In physics, the de Broglie hypothesis is the statement that all matter (any object) has a wave-like nature (wave-particle duality). The de Broglie relations show that the wavelength is inversely proportional to the momentum of a particle and that the frequency is directly proportional to the particle's kinetic energy. The hypothesis was advanced by Louis de Broglie in 1924 in his PhD thesis[1]; he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1929 for this work, which made him the first person to receive a Nobel Prize on a PhD thesis.

Experimental confirmation
In 1927 at Bell Labs, Clinton Davisson and Lester Germer fired slow-moving electrons at a crystalline nickel target. The angular dependence of the reflected electron intensity was measured, and was determined to have the same diffraction pattern as those predicted by Bragg for X-Rays. Before the acceptance of the de Broglie hypothesis, diffraction was a property that was thought to be only exhibited by waves. Therefore, the presence of any diffraction effects by matter demonstrated the wave-like nature of matter. When the de Broglie wavelength was inserted into the Bragg condition, the observed diffraction pattern was predicted, thereby experimentally confirming the de Broglie hypothesis for electrons.

By mindless1 on 5/2/2008 6:37:26 PM , Rating: 2
Your oscope doesn't beg to differ, your logical interpretation of it is the issue, in that your interpretation of that is not aligned with the distinction the prior poster is making.

Electrically, digital signals are the same as analog in that they are merely high/low threshold values. The rate may be higher, as is suceptibility to noise pickup in some cases, but each case would require further distinctions besides whether it was only digital or analog.

RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By KristopherKubicki on 4/30/2008 5:58:31 PM , Rating: 2
Gold corrodes slower than copper, that's its big advantage for electronics. Except for Monster cables, which magically perform better with gold leads and cabling that all go down to solder in the AV unit anyway :)

RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By jlips6 on 4/30/2008 7:05:32 PM , Rating: 2
does gold corrode at all? What sort of compounds can you create with it?

RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By phxfreddy on 4/30/2008 8:55:55 PM , Rating: 3
Nope. Digital and analog electricity is one and the same beast. Gold shines in situations where you have an unsoldered spring contact such as D connectors or coaxial cables. Thus you flash plate the copper so you won't have a layer of corrosion in between.

RE: Perhaps you meant this but...
By Strunf on 4/30/2008 4:30:53 PM , Rating: 2
Yup but copper oxides quite fast that's why most connectors are made of copper and nickel plated, some are even gold plated.

By bim27142 on 5/1/2008 8:16:14 PM , Rating: 2
i agree... that's as far as what my college chemistry taught me so...

1. silver
2. copper
... then comes other elements...

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