Electronics scrap, or e-scrap is generally anything that plugs into a wall or accepts batteries. E-scrap has surfaced as an important issue, because it can be dangerous if disposed of improperly. Many major retailers have instituted take-back programs and municipalities have created drop-off locations to help quell e-scrap issues.
At a time when China — which produces over 90 percent of the world’s output of rare earths, used in lasers, superconductors, computers and much more — has played hardball over exports, there has been renewed interest in extracting precious metals from electronic scrap — so-called urban mining.
Metals recovered from e-waste range from gold, silver, copper and aluminum to rarer metals like platinum, gallium, indium and palladium.
The most precious metals are found in CPUs, mobile phones and servers, said John Shegerian, CEO of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), one the largest private e-cyclers.
“As the amount of rare earth declines and prices are high for traditional platinum metals, there’s probably going to be a stronger desire to recycle things like computers and motherboards to get those metals,” said Canaccord Genuity analyst Eric Glover.
“Longer term, the supply of these metals will encourage additional recycling,” he added.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), e-waste is the fastest growing commodity in the waste stream, with a growth rate five times that of other parts of the business such as industrial waste.
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