Dell Targets E-Waste with Recycled Gold Initiative

Connector Winter 2018

Fresh from incorporating ocean plastics into products, technology firm Dell has announced an industry pilot aimed at using recycled gold from discarded electronics in new computer motherboards.

Dell has a target in place to use 100 million pounds of recycled materials in its products by 2020 and has turned its attention to the growing electronic waste (e-waste) mountain, which produced 44 million metric tonnes of waste in 2016 alone.

The computer firm is launching an industry-first pilot to place recycled gold from used electronics into computer motherboards. The pilot will commence in the Spring and the reclaimed gold process, delivered by Dell’s environmental partner Wistron GreenTech, is said to have a 99% lower environmental impact than traditionally mined gold.

“At Dell, we pride ourselves in finding better, more efficient ways to do business particularly throughout our supply chain,” the company’s vice chairman Jeff Clarke said. “Materials innovation – where and how we source things like plastic, carbon fibre, and now gold for our products – is increasingly important for us.

“When you think about the fact that there is up to 800 times more gold in a ton of motherboards than a ton of ore from the earth, you start to realize the enormous opportunity we have to put valuable materials to work.”

Dell was one of the major tech firms urged to improve transparency in electronics recycling supply chains by the Basel Action Network (BAN), the global toxic trade watchdog organization.

Currently, a little more than 12% of global e-waste is recycled into other products and just 20% of e-waste is documented as being collected and recycled. There’s a huge economic potential attached to the waste, with Americans discarding around $60m in gold silver annually through unwanted phones. From an environmental aspect, reuse of these materials limits the pollutants associated with mining for materials.

Dell believes the closed-loop process can support the creation of millions of new motherboards over the next 12 months. Since 2012, Dell has recycled more than 50 million pounds of post-consumer recycled materials into new products.