Paid Post: From Garbage to Gold: Tales of the e-waste pioneers

Paid Post: From Garbage to Gold: Tales of the e-waste pioneers


In 2018 we produced 50m tonnes of electronic
waste globally, a figure that’s set to soar.. There are around 25-50 billion internet-connected
devices on the planet today amounting to several devices per person. 
The amount of raw materials needed to create enough devices to fulfil demand is set to
double over the next four decades. Extracting these materials through mining
has social and environmental risks, and at the other end, waste from electrical and electronic
equipment can contain heavy metals like mercury and lead, or flame retardants that are bad
for human health and the environment. Here in Belgium, a company called Umicore
are trying to make a change. In the 90’s, we decided to make a huge transformation from
a mining base metal company to what it is today, which is a company that is innovative,
that is looking at new technology, that is trying to bring solutions to issues that the
planet is having. The challenge of recycling small electronic
equipment is a very interesting challenge. There are two billion small electronic equipment
that are sold on the planet. The vast majority of them are lost somehow. They’re lost in
your drawers! Just imagine today that you would be able to recover those two billion.
You would recover about 50 tons of gold, 500 tons of silver, 20,000 tons of copper and
cobalt. So, there is a real, real, real business case
in order to recover this material and to put it back into service. So we’re closing the
loop here. The total value of materials contained in
e-waste is estimated at $62.5 billion. And Umicore aren’t the only ones who are
trying to find ways to recycle and reuse. Volkswagen is building a battery recycling plant to recycle
EV batteries. Whilst Apple has set the ambitious goal to make all its products from 100% recycled
materials. For a business that wants to continue into
the future we have no choice but to invest into the kind of process and the kind of
product and services we have offered. But everybody has to be into this. It is not
us and others. It’s the connectivity and it’s very important that everybody realises that
it is good, it is good for everybody.

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