The UK throws away roughly 300,000 tonnes of electrical items each year, and globally this reaches 50 million tonnes. Most of these electrical items can be recycled, however, it usually ends up on landfill sites and becomes e-waste (electronic waste).
What most people don’t realise is that the circuit boards in your unwanted laptops and mobile phones contain precious metals, such as gold and silver. When recycled these metals can be extracted and can be reused.
The jewellery industry produces large amounts of CO2 emissions through mining, mineral extraction and processing, as well as the manufacturing of the finished product. Reusing gold and other precious metals from e-waste cuts out the need for mining. Retrieving the metal from circuit boards releases a significantly smaller amount of CO2 than extracting it from its ore.
In 2023, the Royal Mint plans to open a new facility in Llantrisant, South Wales, that will recover these materials from unwanted electronics. Construction began in March 2022 and when opened it is expected to process around 90 tonnes of the UK’s e-waste per week. The facility will begin by only removing the gold from the circuit boards, and if successful they will put plans in place to remove other metals such as silver, aluminium, steel, and tin.
The Royal Mint will recycle the gold they retrieve by using it to make coins and gold bars. They have also recently launched 886, a luxury jewellery brand that makes its jewellery with 100% of the gold it has recovered from e-waste. This is a great way to sustainably produce jewellery as raw, natural materials are not needed. This removes the need to create further damage to our environment as there is no need for mining.
The Royal Mint appear to be onto a sustainable winner and hopefully this will lead the way for other jewellery companies to do the same, reducing the amount of e-waste that ends up on landfill and encouraging people to recycle their electronics much more sustainably.