There is a major difference between how much gold and silver recycled jewellery is coming on to the market to be used again, according to a new analysis.
Around 551 tonnes of silver jewellery was bought up to be used again worldwide last year, figures from the Metals Focus: Silver Scrap Repot revealed. But that’s just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the annual demand of 7,045 tonnes to turn into new silver jewellery.
Such straightforward comparisons are not available for how much old and unwanted gold jewellery is sold to be reused, because the figures for recycled gold also include gold bullion bars and coins that have been melted down to use again.
But Silver Seek estimates that around 1,000 tonnes of gold jewellery was recycled last year – less than half of the 2,415 tonnes demanded by jewellers to make new items in 2015. The report said the main reason there was such a difference between gold and silver recycling rates was that better prices that can be obtained for selling on old, broken and unwanted gold jewellery compared to the sale of unwanted silver pieces.
Selling on the old gold jewellery that you no longer wear, or pieces that are lying broken and unused at the back of a drawer or in a box makes good sense at the moment.
As well as helping meet some of the huge worldwide demand for gold to be converted into new pieces, the precious metal is continuing to attract strong values. Gold has been enjoying high prices this year thanks to worldwide political uncertainty.
That means you are able to obtain top dollar – or pounds per troy ounce of gold – when you decide to convert your unwanted pieces into cash.
It’s highly unlikely your old, broken or outdated gold jewellery will end up in the bin and heading for landfill, because it’s not the kind of thing you throw out with the rubbish.
But it’s a different story with electronic waste that’s past its sell-by date or just doesn’t work anymore. Last week, we took a look at how a massive e-waste scrap market in India is providing work for hundreds of people scrabbling about among the old computers and mobile phones to remove the precious gold, silver and copper wiring they use for recycling.
In the US, tech giant Apple – a big user of recycled gold in its products – actually produces an annual report covering how much precious metal it recycles from old iPhones and iPads. You may just be surprised at the quantity.
In 2015, Apple recovered almost a metric tonne of gold from old products that were no longer wanted. It gives some perspective on just how much recycled gold is demanded by the market and why there is such a strong trade in it. Apple is just one of the tech companies that use precious metals in its products, so imagine how much is needed to meet international demand.
The California-based business’ Environmental Responsibility Report says that the value of gold it recovered last year was around £28 million pounds. Given the rocketing price of bullion over this year, it’s likely that the value will be much higher when it comes to calculating the figure for 2016.
It also extracted an amazing 6,612lbs of silver, 2,953,360lbs of copper and 101,000lbs of steel from devices in 2015. Apple has robots called Liam, which were invented to do the job of taking apart more than a million iPhones every year to get at the precious metals they contain.
One of the reasons Apple is successful at recovering gold, silver and copper to use again in its products is its programme to offer money off new devices when customers hand in their old ones for recycling. It’s a double whammy – Apple is able to retain the customers, and get at the gold it needs to keep producing its tech.
The precious metal from your broken and unwanted gold jewellery that you can convert into cash is generally melted down and used to create new jewellery designs.
But as we’ve explored in previous articles, gold is a very important component in modern electronics from your laptop to your smart phone, where it is used in the circuitry.
Much of the scrap gold used in phones and computers is recycled many times over. The beauty of gold is that it can be used again and again without losing any of its quality. Plus, recycled gold is cheaper for manufacturers to buy than freshly-mined precious metals.
In India, the second biggest importer of gold in the world, there is a thriving market for recycled gold. The country is home to a giant e-waste market in Seelampur, where old and broken computers, fridges, phones, computers and television sets are sent to be scrapped.
The sheer size of the scrap market means it attracts tens of thousands of people, who come to remove the scrap gold and other metals, such as copper, which can be sold on for reuse. There is a mixture of independent workers at the site and people working for large companies, spending all day extracting the scrap gold and metals from the e-waste.
Muhammad Hameed owns a scrap shop and has been working at the market for four decades, making a living by removing the metals from old circuit boards.
People are paid both by the volume of scrap metal they are able to find and the type, with gold paying the best rates.
Ishtiyaq, who runs a scrap factory, told the Daily Mail: “There is a demand for gold and copper. There are copper manufacturing plants that mostly buy and purify the extracts. They pay a good amount.”
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