A side benefit of computer recycling

In a recent newsletter, Free Geek, a computer refurbishing organization in Portland, shared some information about their computer recycling program. One number in particular caught our eye, the amount of gold and other metals that would be recovered from all of the materials they recycle.

After reading the email from Free Geek, we decided to find out just how much gold we helped recover last year.

In 2016 alone, Kramden sent 6,813 pounds of motherboards and other printed circuit boards to our recycling partner. Each ton contains an average of 5 troy ounces of gold[i]. Let’s have some fun with math.

6,813 pounds = 3.4 tons

5 troy ounces = 0.34 pounds

3.4 tons * 0.34 pounds/ton = 1.156 pounds of gold recovered

That’s a little over half of the gold bar pictured here:

Just over a pound of gold may not seem like a lot on its own, but let’s take a moment to put it in context.

Big mines produce 125 tons of waste rock per ounce of gold produced. That means the 1.156 pounds of gold our recycling efforts helped recover saved more than 4.6 million pounds of waste rock from being generated.

The impacts of gold recovery don’t stop there. Moving and processing all of that rock requires a lot of energy, both gas and electric. To extract gold during the mining process, the ore is doused with cyanide, an extremely lethal environmental containment. Puddles containing cyanide solutions are hazardous to wildlife and accidental spills into rivers led to large scale kills of fish and other aquatic species[ii]. Gold mining also releases large amounts of mercury, arsenic, and antimony into the environment[iii].

For us, it’s always nice to see another way in which the work of our amazing volunteers helps the world.