$61B worth of gold and valuable components end up in the dump

Thanks to global demand for new gadgets and poor e-recycling programs, billions of dollars of recyclable devices end up in the trash.


July 10, 2018

Thanks to global demand for the latest iEverything, e-waste is the world’s fastest-growing type of trash. The latest recycling records show that the US generates more than 6.9m tons of e-waste annually — the equivalent of 400 iPhones for every American family. 

This trash really is treasure

Globally, the total annual amount of digi-trash is expected to reach 57m tons by 2021, but only 20% of e-waste is recycled.

The only thing more staggering than the volume of e-waste produced each year is the value of e-waste produced each year, totaling at least $61B. For perspective, the amount of gold thrown away equals about 10% of all the gold mined annually.

We should probably stop throwing gold in landfills…

Much of America’s valuable e-waste ends up in foreign countries, incentivizing unregulated “mining” in India, Indonesia, and Thailand that extracts valuable components (gold, silver, platinum, and copper) and releases toxins that poison local waters.

But, as the damage grows, companies and countries are starting to launch programs to reduce e-waste. 

Apple introduced a controversial robot named Daisy to recycle iPhones, China banned the import of trash, and winners in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will receive medals made from reclaimed electronics.

You know what they say: one country’s iPhone…

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