Dell Turns E-Waste into New Treasures

In January this year, the USA-based multinational computer technology company Dell and actress, entrepreneur and activist Nikki Reed were announcing a new limited-edition jewelry collection made in the USA and sourced from gold recovered from Dell’s recycling programs.

According to the information, the collection includes 14- and 18-carat gold rings, earrings and cufflinks. It was showcased at this year’s 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES2018) in Las Vegas to highlight the widespread impact that e-waste, or disposable electronic equipment, has on the environment. Dell hopes to bring greater visibility to the value within technology and encourage people to recycle responsibly.

In addition, Dell announced a pilot to use recycled gold from used electronics in new computer motherboards, “which will ship in the award-winning Latitude 5285 2-in-1s starting this spring,” a press release said. “The pilot follows a successful feasibility study on server motherboards. The closed-loop gold process could support the creation of millions of new motherboards in the next year. It expands Dell’s closed loop program from plastics to precious metals.”

In the USA the recycling rates of e-waste are low, only 12.5 percent. As reported, it is estimated that every year Americans throw away gold and silver worth about 60 million US-Dollar through unwanted phones alone. The new jewelry collection and Dell pilot would demonstrate the potential for these precious materials to be recycled into goods.

Dell’s closed-loop gold process

The manufacturer offers take back and recycling services and “mines” its own recycling stream for raw materials. Computers and other electronics which work are being refurbished and resold or donated. In the case of gold, Dell’s partner, Wistron, responsibly extracts the gold from motherboards electro-chemically and then melts the gold into bars for easy transport, the company gives account. Then the gold is shipped to suppliers in Taiwan who use it to create a “gold salt bath”. Components for new motherboards are then dipped in this bath to coat them.

Advantages of recycled gold

In working with TruCost, a company which makes estimates about the hidden costs of unsustainable use of natural resources by companies, Dell found “that the closed-loop process can cause 99 percent less environmental damage and avoid 1.6 million US-Dollar in natural capital costs per kilogram processed” (3.68 million US-Dollar for the pilot project alone) when compared to gold mining. “The same study showed closed-loop process can avoid 41 times the social impacts of gold mining,” the manufacturer underlined.

Photo: Schreenshot, Dell Video,