The Truth About Printed Circuit Board Recycling

The E-Waste Sector

Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in the world. WEEE refers to any electronic device that is no longer useful, functional, or has become obsolete.  

Unfortunately, much of what is considered E-waste is not waste but a valuable source of metals, equipment and parts that can be resold.


According to bodies such as EcoWatch and E-Waste Monitor in 2020 the world produced 55 million tonnes of WEEE. This is the Equivalent of 4500 Eiffel Towers.

The volume of WEEE is expected to compound by >4% per annum to around 30% by 2030. This would take the volume of WEEE to 69 million tonnes. 

Currently only 35% of US WEEE is recycled. 140million cell phones end up in landfills every year. Americans throw away more than 9 million tonnes of WEEE.

Fortunately, WEEE contains large amounts of valuable materials like gold, silver, palladium, tin and copper that makes recovery worthwhile and in turn protects the environment from burning and other dangerous practices in third world countries


These metals occur in greater concentrations in E-waste than are found in normal mined deposits. It is estimated by Global E-Waste Monitor that more than 3,000,000 ounces of gold is contained in US E-waste each year. At $1850 an ounce, this is valued at roughly US$5,550,000,000.

Urban Mining International has developed a proprietary hydrometallurgical process for extracting these valuable materials and has built, tested  and permitted a 14,000 sq ft refinery. The plant is capable of processing 420,000 tonnes of E-waste per year.

Effects of E-Waste Recycling on the Environment
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Many people incorrectly assume that WEEE is safe and assume that it is non-hazardous at the end of its life. Sadly, this is not true.

Just because your old phone looks benign is no reason not to dispose of it responsibly. 

WEEE is a highly complex and heterogeneous material.


WEEE contains materials that are toxic and harmful  to our air, water and soil. These damaging materials include:

  • Lead

  • Cadmium 

  • Dioxins

  • Mercury 

  • Beryllium

  • Arsenic

If not handled properly, these materials can be damaging both to people and to the environment. 

E-waste is commonly burned to remove plastics and leave the metals behind. Burning fills the atmosphere with pollutants such as hydrocarbons, heavy metals and dioxins. The air at some of these waste disposal sites is truly toxic to people and the environment.

Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and barium leach out of processing sites and landfills and end up in streams and rivers killing fish and creating hazards for people who draw their water from these sources.  They also are taken up by plants making them toxic to ingest.

Soils are the route that heavy metals use to end up in the groundwater. They are absorbed by crops and can lead to illness and poor-quality food.

The Benefits of E-Waste Recycling

Recycling WEEE enables the safe and eco-friendly recovery of precious and other metals.

Metals can be recycled an infinite number of times, which means that we are less dependent on mining for production of metals for inclusion in our electronics, most of which would not exist if it were not for mining.

Recycling presents a viable alternative.

WEEE recycling is a truly sustainable and eco-friendly business. 

In addition when handled in a responsible manner WEEE recycling puts money in the pockets of the recyclers, many of who are small businesses.

Effective and responsible recycling businesses like Urban Mining International produce no greenhouse gasses or emissions, no landfill of solid waste, no water effluent and have a much smaller operating footprint than traditional mines.

The Circular Economy

Almost every component in WEEE can be recycled. This can be items damaged or faulty at the time of manufacture, products that fail during use or waste materials discarded by consumers because there is a lack of effective for solutions for recycling.

The PCB Recycling Process

Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) contain huge value in recycled materials, often over $10,000 per tonne and represent an orebody with 50-70 times  the concentration of metals found in traditional mined ores.

Benefits of Partnering with Urban Mining International

Recyclers who are concerned about where their materials end up or want to see the circular economy grow and succeed can benefit by partnering with Urban Mining International.


We offer recyclers the following:

  • Gold Concierge who will immediately tell you what your WEEE streams are worth and take care of everything from shipping to payments

  • Faster payment terms than the smelters

  • No greenhouse emissions, no effluent and no landfill  

  • Domestic treatment of materials and thus reduced shipping costs

To find out more call us on 919-200-6695 or email us at