Gold is easy to manipulate, corrosion free and a reliable conductor for microchips and mini-processors. Gold can be found in most electronics, from transistors to airbags and from laptops to satellite parts. When 200 mobile phones are recycled, enough gold can be gathered to forge a new gold ring.
However whilst the gold content for each product is really low, the total amount of gold in electronics is huge. Because a lot of electronic waste is not recycled, a lot of gold gets unnecessarily lost. But there are enough possibilities for recycling, even though this is not the reality. Certain industries do have the expertise and machines to extract gold from electronics. UMICORE in Belgium is able to recycle 6 tons of gold from 300 tons of mobile phones on a yearly basis. Keep in mind that a ton of ore only provides 2 or 3 grams of gold. The actual problem of recycling is collecting, only 1% of the mobile phones are recycled.
The use of gold for electronics has increased enormously over the past two decades. A substitute for gold is not present and when we can expect technological growth, the more and more scarcer gold will be highly necessary for the industrial sector. A sector which is responsible for 12% of the demand for gold. Therefore the need for alternatives and recycling is of huge importance today and in the future.
Urban mining is for example a new trend. It aims at the recycling of electronic waste (laptops, mobile phones, etc…). A huge mountain of waste can be potentially valuable and partly a solution for the growing demand.