How Computers Are Recycled For Gold And Other Precious Materials

You probably have a broken computer somewhere in your house and you're about to throw it away. Wait! Don't just throw it out, that thing is filled with precious gold! Just kidding, it's only about $1 worth. 

After watching the video it will become pretty apparent that the average person doesn't have the equipment to harvest the precious metals from old computers, but even if you could, it wouldn't be worth the effort. Apparently old computers, that tend to have the most gold, only have about $1-$9 worth of gold spread throughout. The real money comes from recycling computers at extreme volumes. 

According to, A cell phone has about $2 worth of precious metals in it. If you could get your hand on 1000 old cell phones you may be able to make $2000. 

That also doesn't seem very realistic but recycling your computer certainly is. If you're in the US you can recycle your computer at both Best Buy and Apple stores; and the cycle continues. 



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Paulo Macedo's picture

Hummm...time to smash the PC, cellphone, 6D, and laptop. I'm feeling that 1800's gold rush!!
Anyway, it's pretty normal to find those on your machine, they are better conducters of electricity. Gold for example, used in processors and other stuff, is really good when it comes to lossless data transmition, I believe that the CPU on itself is the part of a computer with the largest percentage of gold inside. Eitherway, you would obliterate a 300€ CPU to get like 2€ worth of gold...and this is if you can manage to clean that gold of other metals like copper.

I have a dead PC in my office right now. Too bad it was my main computer up until last night. I'll have to console myself with my new carbon fiber Manfrotto and Markin head.

It's cool. It's worth $2 in scrap

Can't work, but $2 to pay the paperboy is encouraging.

Leif Sikorski's picture

And in reality many consumer goods get in some way to Africa because the companies and stores want to avoid the recycling costs or the companies who should do it for them want to earn some extra money. The US are probably the worst because they're exporting about 80% of their e-waste and they didn't join the Basel convention which had the intention to control the movement of it.


Recycling is just a neat way for industrialized countries to look good, but it most cases, it's not as green as advertised.

I don't agree. You can't make blanket statement about recycling in general...

I mean, recycling in most peoples mind is bring cans to the stores, but in many cases it's actually reuse that is being done. Like beer bottles getting cleaned and refilled....

Also, precious metals running out (or getting more expensive/difficult to extract) push on recyclying the ones we already used... We just need to use "greener" energy to do so. And that's another debate...

There really is no sharing different and subtle point of views with you...

Have fun!

We are always told in the US to take your electronics to either the toxic waste department of the local waste facility or to recycle at one of the stores. The reason being, the electronics still contain a number of toxic chemicals that we don't want leeching into the ground at the normal solid waste dump. Makes sense. However, if the local facilities are shipping it to Africa to be burned, creating MORE of the very problem we are trying to be responsible and avoid, what do we do with our electronics? I say this because the dump is not a close drive (nor a pleasant place to visit on the weekend) and I have a box of computers, tablets, and phones I need to be rid of.

That's pretty much my philosophy. I recycle within the household first. My box of crap is a desktop that still has Windows XP, a 6 year old laptop that I upgraded last month, a couple phones that crapped out, and a tablet with a broken screen that is full of viruses from Samsung's bloatware and some Play store freebie games. In another year, the laptop I have now will become my son's when I buy a Mac (which I had intended to buy this time around but I had too many expenses pop up all at the same time). I've always thought it's a waste of money and just not good to always have to get new stuff when the old stuff is fine. Hell, my car is 10 years old.

One thing we've lost as a society is the willingness to tinker with our stuff to make it work. I was fortunate enough to have gotten a kick start on tinkering with computers when I was younger. It was never a hobby, but it did give me enough knowledge about computers to know if I'm buying something I will use for a long time. For example, I want to know if I can add more memory should future software require it. Aside from the environmental and financial issues, I really hate changing out my electronics.