I can explain this George

the UK government reports that a tonne of gold embedded in electronics is landfilled in this country every year.

Because the environmental rules about how you may process electronics to remove that valuable gold are too restrictive.

If you want more recycling to be done then you’ve got to make it cheaper to do the recycling. Or you can have very strict rules about such recycling (here the rules are about the lead which is co-extracted with the gold) and get less recycling.

But what you can’t have is very strict rules about how you recycle and also lots of recycling.

And this is just bullshit:

The 2012 Greendex survey found that people in poorer countries feel, on average, much guiltier about their impacts on the natural world than people in rich countries. The places in which people feel least guilt are, in this order, Germany, the United States, Australia and Britain, while the people of India, China, Mexico and Brazil have the greatest concerns. Our guilt, the survey reported, exists in inverse proportion to the amount of damage our consumption does. This is the opposite of what a thousand editorials in the corporate press tell us: that people cannot afford to care until they become rich. The evidence suggests we cease to care only when we become rich.

“Consumers in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, China and India,” the survey tells us, “tend to be most concerned about issues like climate change, air and water pollution, species loss and shortages of fresh water … In contrast, the economy and the cost of energy and fuel elicit the most concern among American, French and British consumers.” The more you have, the more important money becomes. My guess is that in poorer countries empathy has not been so dulled by decades of mindless consumption.

Because the more advanced the technology we use the less effect we have upon the environment. An urban laddie like me affects the forests and the prairies a great deal less than some slash and burn peasant farmer, d’ye see?

22 comments on “I can explain this George

  1. I suppose that if there was an open sewer outside the door of my hut and my wife had to walk further each day to gather firewood, I might concede that this was a worry if the man from Greendex bought the beer.

  2. I reckon within 10-20 years we will see a developed business based on mining old landfills for the valuable metals and plastics dumped in them; I don’t think the emissions from recovery would make it viable under current emissions regs but if scarcity drives prices up yet further…

  3. George let the mask slip a bit there.

    Time we rolled all the Greenshirt/Leftists/Progs into a great big (and more accurate) category: The ‘Guiltists’.

    After all, that’s what it’s always been about, really.

  4. ‘tend to be most concerned about issues like climate change, air and water pollution, species loss and shortages of fresh water’
    I suspect that a Chinese peasant would be concerned about a shortage of fresh water and about pollution. Maybe they might possible be concerned about species loss. I doubt they give a fuck about climate change.

  5. “The 2012 Greendex survey found that people in poorer countries feel, on average, much guiltier about their impacts on the natural world than people in rich countries”

    It’s not the report. One accepts green pressure groups talk bollocks because that’s what green pressure groups do. it’s the bloke quoting it.
    Has George actually ever strayed outside of whichever bit of the Welch marches he infests? Concern about the environment in poorer countries? Is there fuck. I was watching some blokes reclaiming copper from cabling in Algeria, while back. Big fire & you could see the black, greasy smoke laden with PCPs from 25kms. What doesn’t blow over the local town’ll be washing off into the nearby arroyo next time it rains & down into the Med. Even in this country, the difference between the wealthy towns & the poorer back country is pronounced. Up there, the raw sewage goes straight in the water course. Out of sight – out of mind. Down on the coast where the rivers eventually carry it so kids can paddle in it, they’re driving Prius’s & recycling drink cans.
    Concern about the ‘environment’,as opposed your own few square feet of it, is rich man’s stuff. So much money he can afford to throw some at the river.

  6. Possibly we will see a call for government subsidy to alleviate the excess costs produced by counterproductive government regulation.

    Not the first time

  7. The evidence suggests we cease to care only when we become rich.

    That’s rather turning Maslow on his head, isn’t it?

  8. “My guess is that in poorer countries empathy has not been so dulled by decades of mindless consumption.”

    Then fuck off and live in a favela, Georgie boy. See how long your new neighbours put up with your moralising bullshit, much less pay you for it.

  9. The witterings of someone who’s never travelled closer to the 3rd world than Wales.

    FWIW, here (Japan), everything possible is extracted from scrap electronics. Since China put the screws on exports of rare earths, recycling has received a big boost and put a big dent in imports. From China, natch. A sort of inverse Laffer Curve, if such a thing exists.

  10. I think the more pertinent reason that gold isn’t generally recovered from electronics is that it is so thinly dispersed within that waste stream and mixed up with other materials, thereby making it difficult technically to extract economically.

  11. “My guess is that in poorer countries empathy has not been so dulled by decades of smug wealthy greens guilt-tripping the population 24 hours a day.”

    Minor adjustment for clarity.

  12. The feelings about air pollution of an Indian parent whose children are dying of respiratory diseases caused by wood smoke.are likely pretty strong.

    Equating these with a Westerner’s thoughts on carbon dioxide is repulsive.

  13. “I suspect that a Chinese peasant would be concerned about a shortage of fresh water and about pollution. Maybe they might possible be concerned about species loss. I doubt they give a fuck about climate change.”

    I doubt they have a clue about climate change. I imagine the survey went something like:

    Greendex Surveyor: And what are you worried about climate change?

    Chinese Peasant: What’s climate change?

    GS: All those nasty imperialist westerners have been putting pollution into the atmosphere and as a result the world will get much hotter and all your crops will die and you’ll run out of water and it there will be massive storms and long droughts and ……

    CP: Yes, I’m concerned about climate change.

  14. I suspect that the cost of recovering the gold is such that, even if profit could be made, the margins are so small that you wouldn’t bother. Largely due to the regulations surrounding all the nasty chemicals you need and nasty stuff you need to do.

  15. A whole ton of gold, eh? Good heavens! 1000 kg is 32151 troy ounces. At current spot $1242.60/t oz that’s almost $40 million! And a ton of gold must be quite a large pile, right? Nope. Density of gold is 19300 kg/m^3 so a ton is a cube about 37cm on a side.

    In other words, if take a lump of gold smaller than a microwave oven, smear it nanometers thick over millions (billions?) of other things, fling them to all points of the country and then try to recover it. Your gross payoff is about 60p for every person in the UK.

  16. Allegedly tens of millions of pounds worth of gold are buried each year, because it is too expensive to extract the metal.

    File under ‘horseshit’.

    WEEE regulations require that electrical and electronic kit is disposed responsibly in UK, EU, and civilised places elsewhere. Disposal imposes costs but metal recovery offsets them partially. The problem for WEEE processors is all of that useless plastic – casings etc can be recycled, but mashed up PCBs and plastic encapsulated chips go to landfill. Somebody smart will work out how to construct very robust fence posts from them.

    Waste electronics and white electrical goods often go into landfill because the owners do not know how to get rid of them. If you are reading this in the EU or parts of North America, you might know that you bought disposal/recycling when you bought the product; crushing it up, or collecting a defunct washing machine, was part of the purchase price.

    But gold extraction should be easy. Ish. RoHS electronics (eg lead solder free) means that the lead concern can be side tracked if RoHS products can be identified. Modern WEEE is lead free-ish, and whilst processing requires nasty chemicals, effluent costs might be manageable. Older WEEE must be treated separately — too much lead — so when gold prices go down, store it in a big shed until metal prices rise.

  17. This is true only if all that waste is bottlenecked at a point where it can be economically retrieved. If the article is to be believed this isn’t happening. If it’s escaping into landfill then it’s too late.

  18. I suggest a completely unethical and reprehensible experiment: transport 10 kids who survive on pickings from a Brazilian waste site and put them to work on a site in the UK.

    At either site, can any child create enough wealth to live; to educate his/herself; to support anyone else?

  19. Well, if you can beat the 10$/gm extraction costs of the mining industry, you might have a business. But I’ve a feeling you’d need a few tons of circuit boards to get a gram. From the technical data, looks like the contact plating’s typically only around 1 micron And any less than 1 part per 10⁶ you’re below the minimum on workable ore.

  20. bis: one interesting aspect of the innovation that Tim’s always banging on about (i.e. the refinement of industrial processes rather than the basic invention) is that the thickness of gold plating on electronics has decreased hugely in recent years, from typically 20 μm down to as little as 300 nm.

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