Complicated Precious Metal Recycling Problems Made Easy

Complicated Precious Metal Recycling Problems Made Easy

Recycling precious metals often involves analyzing and refining big messy batches of mixed materials. People who own these mixed lots of material know that gold or silver or platinum is “in there” somewhere, but don’t know where it is, what it is, or how much of it is present. 

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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)