What Precious Metals Are Contained in Piles of Old Desktop Computers?

If you are a school system, a city recycling center or a hospital, chances are that you have quantities of old scrap desktop computers – maybe several dumpsters full of them – that you would like to recycle.

Shown: scrap computers with circuit boards containing gold, platinum and other precious metals that can be recycled by Specialty Metals.

What do they contain? We just found a terrific breakdown of the materials that old desktops contain – everything from iron to plastics to gold and other precious metals in the printed circuit boards and connectors. It was created by the now-defunct Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC) back in 1996. That year, you will recall, was in the golden age of desktop use.

Composition of typical Desktop Computer weighing ~27 kg.

According to MCC, "the following table presents the composition of a desktop computer plus a CRT screen in 1996. More than 80% of the weight consists of silica (glass), plastics, iron and aluminium. Precious and scarce materials account for only a small percentage of the total weight. Nevertheless, the concentration of such metals, e.g. gold, is higher in a desktop computer than found in naturally occurring mineral ore." (Source: Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC). 1996. Electronics Industry Environmental Roadmap. Austin, TX: MCC)