Karan Thakkar, Founder, EcoCentric Management
Classical mining terms to the extraction of valuable minerals from mines. Mining operations puts a lot of stress on environmental resources, both during the mining activity and after the mine has been shut.
On the other hand, urban mining is recovering the raw materials from the electronic and electric consumer items that have reached their end-of-life.
1. Raw Materials are Depleting
The age of easily extractable raw materials is soon ending. And it's becoming difficult and less economical to extract the remaining ones that are available.
2. Raw Material Recuperation from E-Waste is Cost-Effective
Even today, not all e-waste is recycled. Plus we could find the concentration is many times higher than the metals extracted from the ores. Approximately fifty pounds of gold and 20,000 pounds of copper could be extracted from one million discarded cell phones if processed properly.
3. In Urban Cities, Millions of Discarded Devices are Yet to be Recovered
Close to 50 million tonnes of electrical and electronics waste is yet to be recovered as per the recent study majority of which includes cell phones, PCs, and laptops.
4. Urban Mining is the only Option for Some Precious Metals
For example, an iPhone uses eight rare earth metals – for everything from its colored screen to its speakers, to the miniaturization of the phone’s circuitry. While the amount of rare earth elements in each phone is a handful, the number of phones sold each year is impressive.
5. Urban Mining doesn't Burden the Environment and Humans
Urban mining is taken as a process that is not only clean for the planet but for the people involved too unlike the illegal channels where people burn the devices to recover metals. With this, they risk their health and safety and it has an adverse effect on the surroundings too.
6. Classic Mining is Heavily Loaded Already
With the technology entering every sector, the need for these smart devices is going to rise 3 fold in the next 10 - 15 years. Classic mining alone could not suffice the need for the materials used. Hence the dependency on urban mining is a must.
7. Business Communities are Eyeing Urban Mining via Recycling
Since urban mining is economically viable now, businesses are marching towards it. In India, the Ministry of Environment & Forest has taken some progressive steps and given targets to Producers & Bulk Consumers to ensure E-waste is recycled.