When a computer stops working or a television set is too old to work with, our immediate reaction is to toss them out. Dumps are littered with old electronics, and people throughout North America, India and Europe are harvesting old and discarded electronic parts to recover the precious metal found within.
If you’d like to get a cut of some of the gold precious metal refineries are smartly earning, there are plenty of ways you can retrieve the gold from the innards of your old and unwanted electronic devices. The cathode ray tubes found in older television sets and computer monitors contain elements of lead, barium, and strontium. Lead is often recovered by private recycling units (sometimes even the government) due to the possibility of air contamination when the waste is incinerated or disposed of improperly. Additionally, copper can be found along the tracks of printed circuit boards and in air conditioners. Thieves destroy air conditioners worth thousands of dollars to extract the copper found within, so if you find yourself with an old and broken air conditioner, you can do the work (legally!) yourself.
Hobbyists nationwide are taking to extracting the platinum and gold in electronics through using harsh chemicals like aqua regia. By placing hard drives and motherboards in an acid bath and allowing them to completely dissolve, solid gold can be recovered and sold to precious metal refineries or dissolved again to increase purity. Before attempting to remove the gold yourself by using aqua regia, it is important to remember this is not a safe process and should only be performed by professionals.
Unfortunately, extracting precious metals from e-waste is injuring millions of people worldwide. E-waste from North America often travels to China and parts of Europe and Africa, where entire circuit boards are burned whole in an attempt to extract the gold. The burning process exposes these workers to dangerous fumes from bubbling chemicals as the boards melt, which is dangerous, not only to the workers’ health, but the environment as well. Common side effects of being exposed to such a large volume of e-waste fumes include coughing up blood and death.
To avoid workers in third world countries being harmed by the extraction process of gold from e-waste items, be sure to read reviews and send your e-waste and e-scrap to a company that is trusted and respected in the field of e-scrap recycling. When it comes to protecting the environment and the human race, sending your e-waste to a trusted buyer is one of the most basic steps you can take.