Is recovering and recycling gold from electronic devices a worthy venture? Should you even bother to recover the gold, and if it’s a good option, just how profitable is it?
First, the answer to your first question is yes – yes, recovering and recycling gold from electronic devices is actually profitable. Why? Well, because it often turns your old and outdated electronics into valuable assets that can turn in a good profit.
While the electronics sold today may not offer as much profit because of the use of alternative metals, you can recover a significant amount of jewelry from the older electronics in your home or office.
Is recovering gold from electronics worth it?
It might not sound like the best or the most profitable business venture, but recovering gold from electronics could easily be one of the best and the easiest ways of making money.
For starters, you don’t really need a lot of gold to turn a profit and make really good money. And since electronics are a great resource when it comes to gold and the fact that most electronics contain gold, not to mention the fact that you may come across a countless number of obsolete electronics from computers and TVs to phones less than 5 years old, recovering gold from your electronics might not be the worst idea.
The main downside is that the recovered gold would be bound to quite a lot of other toxic and hazardous chemicals, specifically lead. It may also be bound to trace amounts of heavy metals.
But once you get over these challenges, you’d be happy to note that the electronics could also turn up other valuable materials such as copper, palladium, and silver.
The EPA notes that the experts in the trade often recycle gold and other valuable metals valued at about $1 million. Recycling cellphones is said to result in the recovery of up to 24kgs or 50lbs of gold, about 250kgs or 550Lbs of silver, and 9kgs or 20lbs of palladium, and a minimum of 9,000kgs or 20,000lbs of copper.
With these numbers in mind, recovering gold from electronics might not be the worst idea ever.
However, you need to be careful about how to dispose of or resell the side products while protecting the environment and ensuring the safety of your employees.
How to Extract Gold from Electronics
This is one of the simplest procedures on how to extract gold from electronics. It is also a rather dangerous process, which is why you should never start off the gold extraction process from electronics without the use of the right equipment or the right knowledge of the process. You could think of it as an effective but also dangerous science project.
If you choose to stay on board and still use/ follow this process, let’s get started.
Step 1 –Take Relevant Precautionary Measures
First, you need to bear in mind that the chemicals used in this gold recovery procedure are hazardous, meaning that you need to put your safety first at all times.
It’s also important to note that in as much as this gold recovery process makes use of household chemicals, that doesn’t mean that the steps of the chemicals used are safe for your skin. Therefore, you should consider buying some of the best quality safety gloves, goggles, and apparatus. Also, you need to make sure that you set up in a very well ventilated room; preferably a room that has a fumes hood. You’d also need a respirator or a gas mask. But even with all these items, working outdoors is another excellent option you could explore.
And after you complete the recovery process, remember to dispose of the chemicals properly – this means setting up a hazardous waste processing unit or facility. You could also get an H-MRF.
Also, you should never pour down the wastes down the toilet or sink, and don’t deviate from the instructions given for your safety and to avoid breaking the laws.
Step 2 – Gather necessary chemicals, apparatus, and all your safety equipment.
- The required safety items include rubber gloves, goggles, a well-ventilated space, a gas mask, or a respirator.
Equipment needed include:
- A coffee filter
- Glass Beaker or thick plastic cups. But not Styrofoam or paper cups
- One large soda bottle for chemical disposal
- Two plastic cups
Chemicals to be used:
- A toilet bowl cleaner containing hydrochloric acid. You could also use the lab-grade hydrochloric acid from Home Depot or any other home improvement or plumbing supplies store. The acid and even the toilet cleaner is quite hazardous, and you should be careful not to ingest it or get it close to or into your eyes or the mucous membranes.
- You’ll also need hydrogen peroxide. You can buy this from any CVS pharmacy where it’s sold as an antiseptic. It is, however, quite hazardous as well, and you have to be careful not to ingest it or get it in your mucous membranes.
- You’ll also need water, which will be used at the end of the extraction process.
Step 3 – Preparation
This step involves getting ready the pieces of electronics that you’ll be extracting the gold from. So, take the electronics you are interested in, then pull out the PCBs – lookout for the gold color on the PCBs. If you notice gold on the PCB, strip off all the PCB’s components. You could also break it apart for it to fit in a beaker.
Step 4 – Cleaning the PCBs
For this step, you need to clean and rinse the PCBs under running water, then dry the piece thoroughly.
Step 5 – Make the Etching Solution
For the etching solution, you will need the toilet bowl cleaner and hydrogen peroxide. Mix these two chemicals in equal parts, making sure you have enough of the mixed solution to be able to submerge the PCBs fully. Once you have your solution, you’d have to submerge the PCBs in the solution. Again, make sure that the PCBs elements are submerged fully.
Why is it called the etching solution? Well, the solution gets its name from the fact that the solution made from mixing the toilet cleaner and the hydrogen peroxide is quite powerful, and it will dissolve all the nickel that is found under the gold. The result of this chemical separation process is the detachment of the gold foils from the nickel because of the dissolution of the latter.
Now, if you are doing all this outdoors, you’d want to make use of larger cups with holes for the fumes to escape and to reduce the risk of contaminants entering the solution.
As a warning, you need to keep in mind that this step is the most hazardous one, especially because even the tiniest amounts of chlorine gas released would pose a risk to your health. The fumes released would depend on the concentration of the acid. With this in mind, the most recommended mix is 3% hydrogen peroxide and 9.5% hydrochloric acid (this is the standard concentration of hydrochloric acid in the toilet bowl cleaner). The concentration of these chemicals is the reason why you’d want to work outdoors.
Step 6 – The Wait
As the etching goes on, this next step calls for your patience. The gold foils will take a bit of time to come off the PCBs. It will take a few days, and once you start noticing the gold foils floating, you’d have to wait at least one more day to be sure that all the nickel has dissolved off the gold foils.
Step 7 –Extraction of the Gold Foils
Now that the nickel has dissolved from the gold foils, the next step would be to extract the gold foils. To do this, you’ll need a large soda bottle to collect the etching solution. You need to do this even if you’ve diluted the etching solution with water, and it must be disposed of appropriately.
Next, remove the PCBs, then scrape off any gold foils attached to the PCBs – have your rubber gloves and the goggle on for this step. Once removed, submerge the gold in water.
Add more water to the existing solution with the gold – preferably double the amount of the solution to thin it out. Doing this will have the gold foils settling at the bottom. Pour out this solution into a bottle for later disposal. Add more water, keeping the gold at the bottom of the container, and rinse the gold multiple times until the solution is thin enough to run through the coffee filter. Again, don’t drain the solution down the sink or the toilet.
Step 8 – Filter the gold foils out.
Filter the gold foils through a coffee filter placed over a cup. Be careful not to rip the filter. The excess water should be disposed of properly.
Step 9- Gold Extraction
Extract the gold foils stuck on the coffee filter, then add some water at the top with the filter turned inside out over a clean cup– this will push the gold of the filter into the cup. Allow the gold to settle at the bottom of the cup, then get as much water out as possible. Next, let the remaining water evaporate out, and you will be left with just gold. You could use a glass vial rather than a cup for this last process to prevent the gold from sticking on to the cup.
Step 10 – Waste Disposal
Take your waste to the nearest waste processing facility for hazardous materials. You could take them to the H-MRF, too; just make sure to make an appointment first and have some money because the facility may charge a small fee.
Yes, this gold recovery process may take a bit of time, but the gold is worth it. Just follow the steps above and follow the safety precautions.