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

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!]

3 thoughts on “Urban mining – there’s gold in that there techno-junk”

  1. When I was a child, I think ‘urban miners’ were known as ‘rag and bone men’. The BBC had a fine comedy about them, ‘Steptoe and Son’. I expect to see rag and bone men return in cities in the affluent world in the next twenty years.

  2. I recently saw some pieces on shows like CNN and the journal with Joan Lunden on PBS that were talking about issues and solutions for industrial recycling. This is an interesting twist that could really become a game changer in the future. Whoever gets in at the beginning of the urban mining will possibly be a part of a new gold rush of sorts. I hope we start implementing such programs early on to reduce our dependence.

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