It's cheaper to retrieve gold from e-waste than to mine it, says Dirk Wray, chairman and CEO of Camston Wrather, which is helping to shorten the supply chain by recycling the waste in the US sustainably. "Today, a financeable gold mine has 1 gram of gold per ton of ore," he says. "E-waste has anywhere from 100 to 200 grams per ton. And it's rich with 22 metals." Its new e-waste recycling facility near San Diego shreds circuit boards to separate plastic from metal, then uses a proprietary "particle reduction" process to break down the materials mechanically into a sand-like product that goes to a refiner. Its carbon footprint is around 90% lower than smelting and it uses up to 95% less water than if it were mining materials from the ground. At six other locations around the US, the company breaks down old gadgets to take out materials like aluminum and plastic for recycling; then the circuit boards are sent to the new facility in Southern California. Camston Wrather is using the profits to quicken expansion. The second and third facilities that will use the new recycling technology are under development.

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