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Why recycling your unwanted gold can help the planet

Published Wednesday 11th May 2016

The first and foremost issue in most people’s minds when they recycle their old, broken or unwanted gold jewellery is usually the extra cash they can earn to use for other things.

But recycling the precious metal also benefits the environment and there is a growing worldwide push to persuade more people to part with gold they no longer want or need, so it can be reused.

One of the major benefits of gold is that it doesn’t degrade – so if you have a 24 carat gold bangle to recycle, it’ll still be 24 carat gold once it’s melted down and can go on to be transformed into new gold items, such as wedding rings.

Ethical jewellery is becoming a big trend, so the demand for recycled precious metals is rising. It’s estimated that around 30 per cent of gold is historically recycled and used again. But figures show that if around three per cent of the world’s gold jewellery is recycled every year, then the entire global demand for the precious metal can be satisfied without having to mine more.

Three per cent doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you put it into context, it is. That’s because around half of the 170,000-plus imperial tonnes of gold that the US Geological Survey estimates ever to have been mined has gone into making gold jewellery. At the moment, miners are digging up around 3,000 tonnes of gold every year.

The green lobby doesn’t have a problem with gold itself, but environmentalists are unhappy about the effects that mining has on the planet. They blame the practice for generating huge amounts of toxic waste and pollution caused by mercury and cyanide. According to GreenBiz, gold mining is the top cause of mercury pollution and is one of the reasons why higher levels of mercury are now found in fish.

So every time you sell some scrap gold for recycling, you’re not only helping your bank balance, you’re helping the planet too.