Urban mining – there’s gold in that there techno-junk

Paul Raven @ 28-04-2008

printed circuit board and electronic componentsDesperate times call for desperate measures, and as the economic crunch digs in across the Western world we’ll probably see a rise in habits like urban mining. [image by HeyPaul]

Urban mining is a hip term grafted onto an un-hip task that’s been a major source of employment (and illness) in places like China for quite some time. It hinges on the idea that certain consumer electronic devices that are perceived to have no value as a working item thanks to obsolescence (hello, old cell-phone!) contain residual value in the form of the metals used in their construction. Urban mining is the process of digging the value out of dead technology.

If you’ve read some of my flash fiction pieces you’ll know that this is a subject that fascinates me, and I believe it will become a big component of any future economy, especially in developing nations.

What I find saddest of all is that the fancy “urban mining” moniker is a way of covering up the contempt we feel for a process that we already pay lip-service to – it’s just recycling, after all. The only difference is that the world’s poor can’t afford to not do it. [Via Posthuman Blues – cheers, Mac!]