E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world and rapid technological advancement has seen a rise in more electronic landfills.
Problem Statement: Toxins such as lead, mercury, and cadmium leach into the soil and water, further contributing to a toxic environment. Additionally, excess electronic waste is increasingly being shipped to less developed countries where it is burned in junkyards. On a mission to retrieve the precious metals from the mother-boards, burners and people who live close by are exposed to dangerous toxins. Another collateral effect of e-waste is related to the raw materials used to build the mother boards. Precious metals such as gold, copper, and palladium are extracted from the ground through mining activities which degrade & pollute the land.
Scope for Innovation: Urban circular mining technology uses evolved microbes to absorb precious metal ions. E-waste is first grinded into ash like residue, then electricity is used to retrieve copper from the grinded motherboards. To retrieve palladium and gold from the grinded ash, natural microbes act as catalysts to extract the precious metals, as the microbes gain weight from the absorption of metal ions. The portable urban e-waste mine can be used by municipalities to recycle local e-waste, and retrieve valuable metals such as gold, palladium & copper.
Our Solution of the Week, Mint Innovation, is a New Zealand clean tech company which has scaled biological processes that recover valuable metals from waste. Their process is a unique bio-metallurgical approach to recover metals from electronic scrap. A key aspect of the Mint process is the use of proprietary microbes that are selective for specific metals. Combined with the advantages of low-cost green chemistry, the company aims to make it viable, both economically and environmentally, to capture value from e-waste near its point of collection.