Startups Hit Jackpot Extracting Gold from e-Waste

E-waste has become a growing concern over the past couple of decades amid the widespread proliferation of mobile phones, laptops, televisions and many other electronic devices. Planned obsolescence by electronics manufacturers has also forced many consumers to replace their gadgets more often and contributed to a flood of old consumer electronics that often end up in landfills.

A recent report by Business Insider has revealed that some companies are making tens of thousands of dollars daily from recycling circuit boards from old electronics. The report said small startups are earning up to $85,000 daily by extracting gold from e-waste, cashing in on a majorly untapped industry with the potential to generate tens of billions of revenue.

Humans around the globe generate more than 50 million tons of consumer electronic waste every year, which is equivalent to trashing 1,000 laptops every second. Although some of this e-waste heads to the third world, especially India, for recycling, e-waste is becoming a growing environmental hazard that is predicted to become much worse over the next decade thanks to the world’s insatiable appetite for mobile phones, televisions, gaming PCs and all kinds of consumer electronics.

Most e-waste ends up on streets and in landfills, contributing to environmental pollution and wasting the still usable resources that lie within old electronics. Data shows that there is an astounding $55–$60 billion worth of precious metals in old and abandoned circuit boards, presenting a significant business opportunity to anyone willing to get their hands dirty and recycle e-waste.

While solo scrappers likely won’t make a full-time living extracting gold and other precious metals from old circuit boards, those working for startups or large organizations with heavy machinery access can earn quite a lot of money. Business Insider followed a small startup and several scrappers in Sydney to determine the potential value of this untapped market.

The startup, called Mint Innovation, said it pays scrappers several thousand dollars for every load of e-waste they drop off, allowing them to earn a serious income from recycling e-waste. Mint Innovation is an expert at e-waste metal extraction and uses specialized machines as well as a secret solvent that breaks down electronic circuit boards, allowing for the separation of valuable metals from waste plastics and other attached materials.

The startup has developed a fully automated recycling setup that can generate up to $85,000 per day ($35 million annually) by extracting valuable metals from e-waste.

The activities of the startups extracting gold from e-waste is helping to bring more gold onto the market to supplement what extraction companies such as Newmont Corporation (NYSE: NEM) (TSX: NGT) are producing.

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