Urban mining is the recycling of unwanted products, stripping out anything useful and repurposing it for other projects. The industry grows year on year, with firms dedicated to collecting unwanted office and industry waste, and selling it on to someone who wants it. What is rubbish to one business can literally be gold to another.
Computers, laptops in particular are believed to contain precious metals worth around £25 per device. Gold is often used to construct these devices. Tech giants Apple are reported to recover millions in gold thanks to their recycling programmes. There is a lot of money to be made in waste, and this has not gone unnoticed.
It is not just tech, however, that is catching the eye of entrepreneurial businesses. Everything from floor tiles to paper is now collected and reused. Last year for example, the UK Green Building Council decided its offices needed a makeover. It set itself a challenge to reuse or repurpose its current office equipment. The challenge was successful: 98% of its office equipment came from what it had already. The whiteboards in the meeting spaces are repurposed glazing, while window benches are made from old timber.
Although it is about saving the planet, it is not just about saving the planet. It is also about saving cash. Landfill and environmental certifications such as BREEAM and SKA can hit businesses hard. This can be avoided of course, simply by selling your waste on to someone else.
Waste management companies are becoming the rising stars of urban mining. They collect waste from “strip out” projects and redistribute it to those that want it. Some actually repurpose the waste to make it more marketable.
Urban mining and the inventive, creative ways waste is being reused shows us how far we have come. What was once destined for landfill is now destined for something else. The more waste that we reuse and recycle the better it is for the environment and the balance sheet. Is this a golden age in recycling? It could well be.