With a smelter burning at more than 2,100 degrees, Belgian recycler Umicore turns tons of e-waste - discarded cellphones, computers and televisions - into “green gold,” extracting precious metals in a process that, while not environmentaly pure is, in Greenpeace’s eyes, preferable to burying the waste in landfills. But it’s just scratching the surface, reports the New York Times.
The ubiquitous cellphone is the gold standard of e-waste. There’s roughly a dollar’s worth of precious metals, primarily gold, in every handset, and an estimated 700 million phones were replaced last year. Some companies take donated old phones and re-sell them on the global market, reducing waste while earning money for philanthropy. But only about 1% off all phones make reach recyclers. (Read more household electronics stories.)