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Scrap Gold Recovery from Computers Brings Electronics Into the Recycling Age of "Green" Mining

Updated on August 7, 2012

You can donate or sell old gold scrap used in products such as the motherboards of computers and other electronics to refiners for recycling. Selling scrap gold from jewelry and catalytic converters as well as computer circuit boards, batteries, cell phones, and other electronic products is the latest way to make quick cash. That's not really surprising: gold scrap recovery is especially popular when the price of gold skyrockets - such as in 1980, when the precious metal refiners couldn't keep up with the supply of scrap gold flowing in.

Scrap gold from industrial and consumer electronics can be reclaimed from laptop computers, personal computer parts, cell phones, and more. When obsolete electronics containing gold are recycled rather than left to languish in boxes in storage rooms, millions of metric tons of metals and plastics can be recovered every year. This means less need for mining operations to supply the market...green mining indeed.

What Does a Gold Refiner Look for in Scrap to Be Recycled

Gold scrap falls into one of two categories - old scrap, which has been used in gold-containing products such as jewelry, computer motherboards, circuit boards, cell phones and other electronics; and new scrap, which comes directly from from the manufacturer.

When they reclaim old scrap, refiners look for:

  • tenor (how much gold is contained in the scrap)
  • cleanliness and organization, which determines how much it will cost to recover the precious stuff.

Selling Your Scrap Gold

Because of safety issues, it's important to have a professional computer recycling center and precious metal refiner handle computer parts for gold recovery. If you disassemble your personal computer to reclaim gold to give to precious metal recovery depots or metal refiners, don't handle the power supply. Also make sure you properly dispose of any hazardous parts. Reclaiming gold involves no extraction or melting by the consumer. You'll simply remove the pieces that have the precious metals.

To take out the circuit boards and other electronic parts, first make sure your hard drive has been wiped and the computer is unplugged before opening the computer case with a screwdriver and removing the motherboard, sound card, video card, and any other circuit boards, leaving them intact with the chips they contain.

These should go to a precious metal refinery. More than just gold is recyclable in computer parts, so you should save all parts for computer recycling centers.

Benefits of Gold Scrap Recycling from Electronics

  • En masse, reclaiming gold scrap from electronics recovers millions of tons of precious metals, plastics, glass and other valuable resources.
  • The more gold that is recycled from old computer parts, the less must be manufactured from new materials to meet the consumer demand. This means we save energy and the resources needed for mining.
  • Computers and motherboard recycling take garbage away from the landfill and put it back into use.

What is Gold Used for?

Besides its use as money, decoration and jewelry, gold has been used in:

  • Inks and paints
  • Aircraft turbine engines
  • Dentistry (not just recently, either, but for about 3,000 years)
  • Solid lubricants used in the space program
  • Architectural glass
  • Radioisotope medicine
  • Radiation shielding
  • Electrical and electronic circuitry
  • Scientific instrumentation


Precious Metals in Computers

A typical PC contains 2 percent gold, 1 percent silver, 20 percent copper and 1 percent palladium. Personal computers also contain aluminum, platinum, iron and several metals listed as hazardous by the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act).

When recycling scrap gold from computer and electronic parts--such as motherboards, sound cards, network boards, video boards, computer batteries, printed circuit boards (PCBs) and integrated circuits (ICs)--you can donate any quantity, even one, to electronic recycling outfits. Yet if you want cash for your precious-metal-containing electronic parts, you should have a bulk supply of computer parts. A single computer won't yield much value at all.

Circuit boards contain most of the precious metals of all computer parts. A single metric ton of circuit boards has from 80 to 1,500 grams of of gold. Computer circuit boards also have lower levels of arsenic, mercury and sulfur, all of which make gold recovery more hazardous and expensive. So scrap gold is more easily recovered by refiners, making circuitboards a more attractive recycling prospect to buy.

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