How Are Precious Metals Recovered from Electronic Scrap?

If you have old cellphones, computers, or other electronic devices, you probably have some questions about how you can make the most money by recycling them. Here is a basic rule of thumb to keep in mind . . .

If the process that is used to extract the precious metals in those devices is too costly, the devices might not be worth recycling at all

Shown: electronic scrap gold plated pins sent to Specialty Metals by our customers for recycling and refining.

Shown: electronic scrap gold plated pins sent to Specialty Metals by our customers for recycling and refining.

It Makes Sense . . .

If you spend time with a pair of snippers removing the gold connecting pins from old computer CPUs and forward those pins to a top precious metals refinery like Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, you will get a high dollar return for every ounce of those pins that you send in. It makes sense, because comparatively little processing is required to separate the gold that those pins contain from other metals and contaminating materials. In contrast, if you contact us and ask about several hundred intact cellphones that you would like to recycle, you might learn that the cost of processing those phones is higher than the value of the precious metals that they contain. After all, one cellphone usually contains only a few cents’ worth of gold.

For a bit of perspective, here is a brief rundown on the different processes that are typically used by precious metal refiners to extract gold, silver, platinum and palladium from electronic scrap, or E-Scrap, as it is called in the recycling business.

Whole Device Refurbishing or Remanufacturing

This is a recycling option that can only be used for current-model smart phones and other devices that can still have use if they are refurbished by the manufacturer or another company.

Extracted-Component Recycling

The case study we cited above – the recycling of gold pins that have physically been removed from electronic devices – is a good example. If you do the physical work of removing components that contain valuable quantities of precious metals, you will get a higher dollar return for every ounce of material that you send in to be recycled.

Shredding, Granulating, Heat Processing and Other Industrial Recycling

These processes are done by large industrial recycling companies that grind up circuit boards and components and use a variety of processes to separate and extract the materials that they contain. Shredded printed circuit boards, for example, can have their ferrous materials removed by magnets, then that residue can be sifted and searched for precious metals, then that residue can be melted so that plastics can be recycled and used in other products.

Which Process Will Yield the Most Value?

As you have already observed, the “purer” recycling options (like extracted component recycling) are likely to put more dollars in your pocket than are the “dirtier” options (like shredding and granulating).

Not sure which is the best way to get the most value from your E-Scrap? Give us a call at 800-426-2344 and we’ll be pleased to explain what your best options are.

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Watch the Gold You Can Recycle from Circuit Boards Pile Up in these Videos
Extracting Gold from Ceramic IC Chips
Four Kinds of Easy-to-Overlook Electronic Devices that Contain Gold