There’s money to be made from old, unwanted printed circuit board (PCBs) in mobile phones, according to a leading electronics waste (e-waste) recycler.
TES-AMM (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd deputy managing director John Ashok said the circuit boards had a small amount of gold along with other metals like silver, copper, palladium, and platinum.
“However, it takes between 50,000 and 60,000 mobile phones or about three tones of mobile phone PCBs to make 1kg of 99.99% pure gold, which are sold to industrial buyers for reuse,” he said in an interview at the facility in Seberang Prai.
Also present was Nokia’s South-East Asia and Pacific sustainability manager Tan Mei Ling, whose company is partnering TES-AMM in electronics recycling.
TES-AMM collected about 509 tonnes of e-waste last year, about one-third of its recycling capacity. The items include computers, monitors, televisions and industrial machineries.
Ashok, however, said mobile phones accounted for only a small percentage of end of life, surplus and obsolete electronics processed at their factory.
He said Malaysians were less savvy in electronics recycling compared to developed countries like Japan and South Korea.
“It’s the mentality,” he said, adding that people expected to get something in return since they had paid hundreds if not thousands of ringgit for their cell phones.
“What they do not realize is that the mobile phones are no longer working or in use,” he said.
Ashok added that everyone had a part to play in conserving nature, and this included turning in electronic items that were no longer needed.
He said it was important for the public to understand that it cost money to dispose of waste properly.
“Income generated from the precious metals extracted allows us to dispose of the electronic waste in a safe manner, which means a cleaner environment for everyone,” he said.
“It’s easy to just focus on the gold ingots that we are making. The fact is it cost millions to set up proper recycling facilities and run them according to environmental standards.
Not to mention the many stages involved such as collection, weighing, separating, dismantling, crushing, chemical processing and smelting,”he said
“We even have to pay to ensure the sludge or end product of the recycling process is disposed of properly without posing environment hazards,” he said.