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(Pocket-lint) - The Royal Mint has announced that it plans to build a processing plant that can turn your waste electricals into gold.

The UK is one of the biggest producers of electrical waste, with many old devices such as phones and laptops simply being thrown away when they're no longer wanted.

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But those devices have lots of elements that can be recycled, as well as lots of chemicals (like in batteries) that have no place in landfill. It's the precious and rarer metals that The Royal Mint wants to save from this scrap.

Thanks to a patented chemical process, developed by Canadian company Excir, The Royal Mint can extract metals like gold from circuit boards in old electrical devices.

While the recovery process has been demonstrated in the laboratory, the Royal Mint is building a plant to do this on an industrial scale.

The plant will be built in South Wales and open in 2023, where it will process 90 tonnes of waste a week, extracting hundreds of kilograms of gold every year and saving that waste from being shipped overseas.

"We estimate that 99 per cent of the UK's circuit boards are currently shipped overseas to be processed at high temperatures in smelters. As the volume of electronic waste increases each year, this problem is only set to become bigger," said chief growth officer at The Royal Mint, Sean Millard.

"When fully operational our plant will be the first of its kind in the world - processing tonnes of electronic waste each week, and providing a new source of high quality gold direct to The Royal Mint." 

The problem of electric waste is one that we should all take seriously: while there are metals that can be recovered, there are toxic elements that need to be disposed of properly - as well as the problem of people throwing away devices that are still perfectly good.

Many councils in the UK offer recycling for electric devices, either at community recycling centres or through doorstep collections if your device has reached the end of its life - but it's also worth considering whether your device has any value to anyone else.

Trading in your old device could earn you some cash. For example, Currys in the UK is currently running a Cash for Trash month, while services like Music Magpie will often give you cash for your old devices. For those in the US, there's a wide range of recycling options too.

Just don't throw electrical waste in the bin, because it's prime for recycling.

Writing by Chris Hall.
  • Source: The Royal Mint to build ‘world first’ plant to turn UK’s electronic waste into gold - royalmint.com
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