OSLO (Reuters) – Some of Europe’s richest deposits of valuable materials are in the trash, ranging from gold in smartphones to cobalt in electric car batteries, according to a survey of urban mining published on Wednesday.
Scrap vehicles, batteries, computers, fridges and other electronic and electrical waste total about 18 million tonnes a year and contain materials worth billions of dollars, the report said, urging more recycling.
A smartphone, for instance, has a concentration of gold 25 to 30 times that of the richest primary gold ores, according to the study, “Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Waste” (ProSUM). A database (urbanmineplatform.eu/) tracks and predicts flows of materials in 30 European nations, from sales to the dump.
“This is one step closer to a circular economy,” Pascal Leroy, project coordinator and head of the non-profit WEEE Forum based in Brussels that promotes recycling of waste electronic and electrical equipment, told Reuters.
“We’ve been doing the prospecting stage,” Jaco Huisman, of the United Nations University and ProSUM scientific coordinator, told Reuters. He likened the project to geological surveys for deposits of materials from copper to silver.
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