Precious metals recycled from WEEE

Ecological jewelry: recycled gold from electronic waste

Ecological jewelry: recycled gold from electronic waste

This post is sponsored by IZ Precious

Jewellery and ecology used to get in contact quite rarely, until a few time ago.
We went off the beaten track when we started making jewellery from wood and other non-precious – but environmentally friendly – materials.

Luckily society is changing and in the last years we have noticed how environmental awareness is showing up more and more in the jewellery and accessories sector.

We were recently invited to know the work of IZ Precious, in the province of Arezzo (Italy), which deals with precious metals recovered from electronic devices.
Born in one of the most important districts for goldsmiths in Italy’s, this company combines technological expertise and environmental sustainability.
It was a stimulating exchange to get to know this reality closely, because, even though we have very different activities and structures, we share the commitment to create eco-sustainable jewellery.

Did you know that it is possible to recover gold and other precious metals from technology waste, such as smartphones, computers and tablets at the end of their lives?

In electronic circuits there are small quantities of precious metals: gold, silver and palladium, which can be recycled and reused, thanks to available technologies.
By activating circular economy processes, WEEE turns from waste into a resource.
Used smartphones, computers and tablets can be considered real urban mines.

IZ Precious has been conceived as a platform, also digital, to foster the recovery and use of precious metals from technological waste.
It is committed to bringing together very different sectors to increase and relocate circular economy paths.
The involved actors are collection centers for used products, precious mineral recovery plants and jewellery and fashion brands.

Technological waste globally is 53.6 million tonnes and has to be disposed of every year, at huge economic and environmental costs.

WEEE processed to extract precious metals

The process to recover these precious materials is mechanical and chemical.
From one ton of WEEE, about 250 g of gold can be recovered.
Recycled gold already exists, as does sustainable gold (fair mined), but IZ Precious takes it a step further, working on the recovery of precious metals from a sector which is different from goldsmith and jewelry.

Research laboratory at IZ Precious

IZ Precious does not produce the recycled gold itself, but works to develop networks and communities between actors who can be involved in circular economy processes and raise ecological awareness.

Through the digital platform, it also offers a system to track the origin of the
recycled metals and quantify the balance between the amount of WEEE and minerals recovered.
Finally, it works to bring the recycling of these metals back to a local scale.

Currently, the recycling process is organized on a global scale, so recycled metals perhaps travel all over the world before being used again.
IZ Precious promotes the recovery and reuse of these metals in the production of jewelry and accessories at a local level, with the intention to bring together players who normally do not talk to each other, such as those working in technology and luxury.

Three drops of gold extracted by some WEEE, just out of the oven

The global demand for gold is about 2,500 tons per year, but precious metals recycled from
high-tech waste are not yet really used in jewelry and fashion.

Thus, there is an opportunity that brands can catch, to enrich the ecological value of their products.

IZ Precious is also to create awareness among companies and consumers to
foster this shift toward more environmentally sustainable jewelry.

Any change can come from the top, thanks to public policy or global global economy, or from below, thanks to consumers demand and the timely work of numerous entities, regardless of their size.

Certainly there will be more and more political and economic directions that will facilitate this change, but let’s think about bottom-up processes, which are the ones we can influence.

Changing things from below may seem very difficult, but in complex systems any information and narrative can trigger important processes of change.

IZ Precious recycled gold incorporates a great deal of added value, an ecological and social character, and represents a building block toward a more ecological model of development, in a sector that normally is not very sensitive to ecology, such as luxury and jewelry.

It’s a bit similar to our case, as we use wood, even non-precious or recycled wood,
to make jewelry.
Seeing such important realities emerge in this sector makes us feel that there is a common direction, that we are creating together with the companies and people who choose these kinds of products.

A project like IZ Precious, in the precious metals, jewelry and fashion industry,
has great symbolic value and indicates that we can indeed move from an extractive economy, that consumes resources, pollutes and destroys land – as in the case of the
mining – to a sensible, measured and, why not, elegant economy.

And that we can also do all this by choosing beauty, creating and wearing jewelry and
accessories that respect the environment
, thanks to technological skills, craftsmanship and the aesthetic sense that is typically Italian.

Leave a Reply