Technology company Dell is piloting a project to recover gold from used electronics for use in new computer motherboards and jewellery.
Dell has partnered with Wistron GreenTech, which uses an environmentally responsible extraction process to break the used electronics down into individual components.
Gold recovered from the old motherboards is then recycled into new computer motherboards as part of Dell’s closed-loop supply chain or upcycled into other products.
The pilot follows a successful feasibility study on server motherboards, with the company noting that the closed-loop gold process could support the creation of millions of new motherboards in the next year, while expanding its closed-loop programme from using only plastics to also include precious metals.
Currently only 12.5% of e-waste is recycled into other products. As a result, it is estimated that Americans throw away $60-million in gold and silver every year through unwanted phones alone.
“This demonstrates the potential for these precious materials to be recycled into new products. Not only does reusing and upcycling gold from used technology have economic benefits, it also creates enormous environmental and social benefits by avoiding the damage to human health and the leaching of pollutants commonly associated with mined gold,” the company said in a statement.
Further, according to a Trucost study, the gold reclamation process created by Dell’s environmental partner Wistron GreenTech has a 99% lower environmental impact than traditionally mined gold.
Meanwhile, Dell and actress, entrepreneur and activist Nikki Reed are collaborating in the creation of The Circular Collection by Bayou with Love.
The company noted that the limited edition jewellery collection would be made in the US and sourced from gold recovered from Dell’s recycling programmes.
The collection, which includes 14 ct and 18 ct gold rings, earrings and cufflinks, will be showcased at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show to highlight the widespread impact that e-waste, or disposable electronic equipment, has on the environment and the opportunity to collaborate across industries to advance a circular economy.
“Bayou with Love was created to bring greater awareness to the human impact on our planet and show that beautiful items can come from sustainably sourced and recycled materials,” said Bayou with Love cofounder Reed.
“By recycling gold that was once considered ‘waste,’ we are working to create an environment where we continuously reuse resources and strive for zero waste.”
Dell vice-chairperson Jeff Clarke added that the company prides itself in finding better, more efficient ways to do business particularly throughout its supply chain.
“Materials innovation – where and how we source things like plastic, carbon fibre and now gold for our products – is increasingly important to us. When you think about the fact that there is up to 800 times more gold in a ton of motherboards than [there is in] a ton of ore from the earth, you start to realise the enormous opportunity we have to put valuable materials to work.
“It takes constantly thinking outside of the box and pushing the boundaries of innovation to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges,” he highlighted.
Dell has spent more than a decade working with sustainable materials in products and packaging. Since 2012, Dell has recycled more than 50-million pounds of post-consumer recycled materials into new products.
As part of Dell’s Legacy of Good Programme, the company has pledged to recycle 100-million pounds of recycled content into its product portfolio by 2020.