Can You Recycle Precious Metals from Medicines and Medical Devices?

Can You Recycle Precious Metals from Medicines and Medical Devices?

Please take a minute to consider this imaginary story… You buy an old retail building that was once home to several stores. One of them was a pharmacy. While you’re exploring there, you open a drawer and find several dozen boxes of old wound dressings that contain silver. You then send those wound dressing to a precious metals refinery like us, we process them, and send you a nice big check for several hundred dollars. It's a nice fantasy, isn’t it? But if you find any, they are not going to contain enough silver to be worth much. Sorry to deflate your dreams of wealth. But let’s look at some other places where silver and other precious metals can be found in the world of medicine. 

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Recycling Silver Cadmium Contacts Can Give You a Big Payday

Recycling Silver Cadmium Contacts Can Give You a Big Payday

If you’re buying and recycling scrapped precious metals, we have a piece of profitable advice for you today: Be on the lookout for silver cadmium scrap or unused components. There’s a lot of money to be made by recycling them, for several reasons. First, old industrial components made of silver cadmium are not difficult to find, because they have been used for years in many manufacturing processes. Second, with cadmium trading at about $12 per pound, a quantify of unused or recycled silver cadmium components can offer you a big return over what you paid for them.

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Electrical Contacts: Little Nuggets of High Value

If you have ever been present when airplanes are being manufactured or recycled, you know how many wires they contain. It’s staggering to look at them all. In the cockpit alone, there are thousands of wires connected to gauges, displays, switches and controls.

Photo of scrap silver cadmium electrical contacts that customers have shipped to Specialty Metals for recycling and refining.

Photo of scrap silver cadmium electrical contacts that customers have shipped to Specialty Metals for recycling and refining.

Even though the sheer number of wires is so great, you will notice something else. Each of those wires ends in a specialized contact of some kind. There are little collar contacts that slide over blade-like contacts on gauges and switches. There are also round contacts that attach to other components with screws. In a plane that has tens of thousands of wires, there are twice that many contacts. (Every wire has two ends, correct?)

And airplanes are only one place where you will find hundreds and thousands of wires and contacts. You will also find them in appliances, manufacturing equipment, automobiles, televisions, stereos, radios, telecommunications equipment, and the list goes on and on.

Why Are Electrical Contacts Used?

The first answer to that question is that contacts allow wires to be connected securely and reliably to electronic devices. The second answer is that contacts are neat, and therefore reduce the possibility that wires will accidentally establish contact with other wires and cause equipment to malfunction. The third answer is that contacts assure a strong electrical connection between a wire and the device to which it is attached. Those are some of the reasons why contacts can be found just about anywhere in any piece of modern electronic equipment.

What Are Electrical Contacts Made Of?

The answer to that question is, it depends on the application. Copper, although it is a soft metal that oxidizes easily, is widely used because of its high conductivity and low cost. Gold, a soft metal that does not generally corrode, has excellent conductivity but high cost. Silver, silver cadmium alloy, platinum, and palladium  can also be used, depending on the application and the level of conductivity desired. They resist corrosion, making them an excellent choice for contacts that will be installed in hot or hostile environments.

Getting The Value From Scrap Electrical Contacts . . .

You can find quantities of contacts in many places, since most industries we serve use some form of electrical device. You might be lucky enough to buy a business where quantities of unused contacts are stored. You might also have obtained a large quantity of wires with contacts that you can snip and recycle. Or you might be in the business of scrapping old vehicles, machines, appliances, or medical equipment that contains a lot of contacts.

In any case, there could be valuable precious metal in the contacts that you own. To learn what they could be worth, call Specialty Metals at 800-426-2344. We are here to help you find out and profit.

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Recycling Silver Cadmium Oxide Scrap

When you think about recycling precious metals, you probably think first about gold, silver, and platinum. That’s good thinking. If you have items that contain those metals, you could be sitting on a lot of money.

Photo of silver cadmium scrap that customers have shipped to Specialty Metals for environmentally responsible recycling and refining.

Photo of silver cadmium scrap that customers have shipped to Specialty Metals for environmentally responsible recycling and refining.

But have you also stopped to ask whether the items you have on hand contain quantities of silver cadmium oxide? It is often overlooked – it is easy to overlook – but it can contain quantities of silver and cadmium that are quite valuable.

Where Can You Find Cadmium Silver Oxide?

Short answer. If you own almost any kind of electronic scrap, you probably own quantities of silver cadmium oxide. It is widely used in motors, switches, relays, and electrical contacts.

Why is Silver Cadmium Used in Electronic Devices?

Silver cadmium oxide is used because it possesses two seemingly contradictory positive traits. First, it is a very good conductor of electricity. Second, it is arc-resistant (it inhibits the tendency of electricity to arc between contacts when they are open). Those two traits make it an ideal material for use in switches and other applications, especially where high electrical loads are present.

What Will My Scrap Look Like?

Silver cadmium oxide can be found in old electrical-powered manufacturing equipment like motors, switches, relays, and brazed contact assemblies. But it is also found in materials that are used to manufacture those items – materials like silver-cadmium oxide wire, sheets, strips and tapes.

How Much Cadmium Is in My Scrap?

The answer is, it depends. Silver cadmium oxide contacts generally contain between 10% and 25% cadmium. How can you tell what you have? Send us a sample of what you have for testing. Call us at 800-426-2344 to learn more.

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