Udayavni Special

This innovative start up aims to recover valuable metals from e-waste


Team Udayavani, Apr 13, 2021, 3:00 PM IST

Source: Unsplash

According to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020, a record of 53.6 million tonnes of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019 and the raw materials in this e-waste were worth around $57 billion- with iron, copper, and gold contributing to its value. From this, we can infer that the gadgets we throw away are rich sources of precious metals.

Mint-Innovation, a start-up in New Zealand has developed a low-cost, biotech process for recovering valuable metals from e-waste.

Will Barker, Chief Executive at Mint Innovation asserted that imagine the gold in your old laptop might end up as a ring on a person’s finger or be reused in new devices.

The company recovers precious metals from crushed and powdered electronic waste using naturally sourced microbes and inexpensive chemicals.

For example, according to the World Economic Forum’s report, a mobile phone is made up of 15% copper and other compounds, 10% other metals, and 3% iron.

Mint has just raised NZ$20 million ($14 million) to help build its first two biorefineries in Sydney and North West England, and visions to have a biorefinery in every major city in the world.

The Sydney plant will be able to process up to 3,500 tonnes of electronic waste a year.

To create a truly circular economy, the recovered metals will be sold back to local businesses, such as jewelers and manufacturers.

Mint Innovation is one of the 17 companies selected to be a part of The Circulars Accelerators Cohort 2021.

According to the Forum’s A New Circular Vision for Electronics, Time for Global Reboot, published in 2019 before the pandemic, in 2019, by 2020 the number of devices connected to the internet was forecast to have been between 25 to 50 billion.

The estimation also states that by 2040, carbon emissions from the production and the use of electronics, including devices like PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones, and tablets will reach 14% of total emissions.

The Forum claims that globally society only deals with 20% of e-waste appropriately and there is very little data on what happens to the rest that ends up in the landfills or is disposed of by informal workers in poor conditions.

The report found that changes in technology such as cloud computing and the internet of things, the world of connected devices, could hold the potential to dematerialize the electronics industry.

 

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