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Monday, July 31, 2006

"A single ton of junked PCs has more gold than 17 tons of ore"

So says Fast Company and then proceeds, unfortunately, not to provide the factual basis. (It appears as an unattributed statement of fact alongside an Alcoa executive's speculation that north American landfills may contain more aluminium than can be produced by mining ores and that the same may be true for gold and copper.)

It's a tantalising idea, and it's one that Buckminster Fuller proposed [at least] 25 years ago in Critical Path:
it is quickly realized that (with a few rare exceptions) humanity need do very little further mining. The metals already scrapped from obselete machinery and structures, which recirculate on a sum-total-of-all-metals-average every twenty-two years, are now able to do so much more work with ever less weight per each given function with each recirculation as to make the present scrap resources of almost all metals adquate to take care of all humanity's forward needs.
It is likely that Fuller mis-estimated a few things (e.g. his primary example for recirculating metals was tin and his claim that, at the time, there was more tin in use for soft-tooling (tools that can be melted and reshaped at will) in US aircraft factories than there was in all of the known still-in-the-ground reserves on Earth; he was writing at about the time that Malaysia's huge reserves were being discovered and led to the 1985 collapse of the tin cartel, the International Tin Council), but interesting to see that another of his ideas may in fact play out.