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Old Electronics Are a New Gold Mine

Think back to the last cell phone, BlackBerry, PC or television you owned. Is it sitting in a closet at home, or did you return it to the manufacturer through a take-back program? If you did send it back, have you thought about where it might have gone afterwards?

You might want to. There is about $1 worth of precious metals in your cell phone and enough gold in 200 cell phones to make a gold ring. Your watch or bracelet could easily be made from the same platinum, gold, silver or copper that helped power the circuit board in your last laptop. In fact, there were 233 million cell phones in use in 2006—that's a lot of potential bling.

Extracting precious metals from recycled electronics is a booming business. We toured the We Recycle! shredding facility in Mt. Vernon, NY to learn how it all works. Check it out:



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Very important information, answering the why and how of recycling such frequently replaced consumer items.

Sent by Frances Knox | 10:15 PM | 2-13-2008

GRC Wireless Recycling offers socially responsible cell phone recycling & fundraising opportunities.

Sent by Diana, GRC | 3:55 PM | 2-14-2008

Great video. While listening to the NPR series about e-recycling, I decided to teach my students about it. I will use NPR resources in my class. Thank you for doing such a great job education us. I love NPR.

Sent by Anna Bobrinskaya | 9:08 AM | 3-26-2008

Great video! As a state certified collector of electronic waste in California (, it's exciting to see the word get out nationally.

Sent by Juan Manuel Huezo | 11:35 AM | 3-26-2008

I have a lot of questions after this video, like who's cracking the CRTs? And who, exactly, is the smelter downstream? The really hazardous processes in recycling are glossed over in this video, and our concern as responsible recyclers should be that these aren't being done cheaply and without safeguards overseas. The Basel Action Network ( is a non-profit that polices "recycling" operations all over the world. It's not enough just to recycle. If your old computer's circuits burn to toxic ash in a Nigerian neighborhood, have you done the right thing? Dig deeper, NPR.

Sent by Mitch Bixby | 11:37 AM | 3-26-2008

I agree with Mitch Bixby - dig deeper. I live in the north Columbia River region. A smelter there is burning e-waste. Their mercury emissions have gone up significantly. Its hard for us in the airshed and watershed to get the smelter to agree to 0 emissions from the smelter stack. Our health is being impacted.

Sent by Jere Gillespie | 2:29 PM | 3-26-2008

how can we get all these metals from such type of cell phones and pc's?

Sent by ramesh | 12:42 AM | 3-27-2008