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Computer Metals Recycling


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Q. Hi
I am currently getting into the recycling business with a partner and I have two questions. I have been looking into the recycling of computer parts like described in the response and I am willing to keep for a while to get enough to make it worth my while. But when I do save up a load of computer chips where do I send them. Near me there is no computer chip, motherboard recycler around. And with other metals where can I get the current price per pound, because I get different answers from scrap yards. I would like to keep up on it.

Jamie L Casucci
- Cheektowaga, New York

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Ed. note: When people take the time to visit this page they'd understandably like it to be the answer to all of their questions. Unfortunately, we can't be an e-bay, Craig's list, or waste exchange without being swamped and losing our focus. Sorry. We've tried it from time to time, and on this no-registration-required page, it always leads to drowning under shills posting with fictitious names and posing as glowingly satisfied users :-(
We post technical Q&A's, but we can't post where to buy or sell stuff. Apologies.


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Q. Hello,
How do I separate Platinum plating on the hard disc platters and what is the procedure to purify or refine the platinum?

Muhammad Omer
jewellery maker - Karachi, Sind, Pakistan


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? I was unaware that there was any platinum at all on hard disk platters. Where did you learn that there is, and where can you point us that will tell us how thick and pure it is and what it is mixed with?

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


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A. I believe that the plated hard drive disks have a mixture of cobalt, chromium,and platinum. Platinum being about 5% to 12% of the plating. Not all the disks have the platinum plating on them either. Not real sure on the scrap value of this item yet, or how to refine it. With a guess from my research, about 15 tons of platinum are used in the electronics field, with the main source being the hard drive disks. There are plenty of hard drives out there, so I'm sure that at some point somebody will figure out how to refine the material and offer a monetary value for the item.

Bruce Opdahl
- Willoughby, Ohio


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A. First you have to liberate your precious and tramp metals into solution, use either ion exchange or electrowinning for recovery. You'll need many permits and you can expect a visit from the HAZMAT fellows in their goon suits. You're far better sending your metals out to a licensed refinery, pre preparation is the key to saving money. Good luck with your endeavors and remember a Hazmat visit could be very expensive.

Gill Almgren
- Melita, MB, Canada


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Q. I was reading some of the letters of your avid site readers. I have a lot of junk computers in my shop and I need some suggestions or help on how to recover the platinum metal from the hard disk of the computers.What are the things I need or chemicals needed to extract the different metals found on the hard disk.and the procedures.thank you and God bless you all.

Giovanni B. Carantes
woodworks - Baguio City, Philippines


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A. When considering recycling in the computer arena, remember that there are other things of value besides the metal. Bruce above stated that printers are worthless. (They probably were in 2005 when he made this comment) Now, however, printers can be an easy money item. The cartridges can be removed and recycled for up to near 20$.

Some will pay for shipping and send preprinted labels when you sign up. Demand for old/broken printers appears to be pretty low so they may be had fairly cheaply.

Mark Parrish
- Kansas City, Missouri


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Q. What Computer parts have Gold, Silver, Platinum in them? I know the boards do but what else, the wire? if so what ones? Some say batteries -- what batteries? Is there platinum in the disc drive? Where?
Thanks Larry

Larry Edgington
hobby - Guthrie Center, Iowa


February 7, 2008

A. Hi. I have one on my lap I got from the dump and have gotten a LOT out of it so far.
No one mentions the magnets. They are typically Neodymium magnets though some like for the hard drive motor itself tend to be ceramic.
In the hard drive the part that moves across the drive has a somewhat banana or curved shape to it.
Use care when removing! I recommend (gogglesamazoninfo for sure) putting one end of its casing in a vice then using pliers or other means to bend the CASE the magnet is mounted to as if to peal it away from the magnet. Get that as far as you can then use a knife (so the edge can cut any glue) to complete the separation. Use caution. Neodymium magnets are very brittle and can send shards flying. There power also makes them likely to attract sharp metal objects so watch out for nearby items that are metallic.
Also the parts of the DVD and floppy and CD often contain Neodymium magnets. Use a screwdriver (metal) to find them next to the lenses. I then use a knife blade to pry them the mount away from them (not them from the mount - again they are brittle and can be dangerous of they shatter).
I then recycle these into wind generators.

Other parts I question (and fishing for answers here) like the contact wires inside the plastic cases that the gold plated contacts go into (not knowing if silver or aluminum) I hang onto.
Just because we may not know an easy way to extract the valuable materials now - doesn't mean we won't find an ecological and economical way to do so a few years from now.
So would anyone know regarding the capacitors if there is any metals or value to those? (I'm seriously considering using them for batteries) And THANKS for all the wonderful contributions here I really learned a lot!
And if anyone wants (or can) to email me if they allow that here I don't have much $ but could really deal with more of these Neodymium magnets since I don't just make my own wind generators I'm wanting to make enough of them to sell.
They use the larger and the small magnets.
Thanks again!

tree kneeland portrait

Tree Kneeland
- Anchor Point, Alaska

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Ed. note: Hello, Tree. This is a specialty site for industrial metal finishing. We're happy to discuss tangential subjects like recycling of e-waste, but the internet is gigantic and the minute we offer to print email addresses and be a free E-bay we're swamped and lose any chance of serving our mission. Instead of printing your offer to buy, we're showing some neodymium magnets listed on Amazon. Apologies.


February 23, 2009

Q. I'm in the process of finding recyclers locally for things like plastic and fiberglass and in the future, glass, maybe. I'm currently crushing old glass and ceramic with a hydraulic jack and steel plates to fill a 115 year old well under my house (long story). I have a stockpile of computer parts with the room and available containers to separate and store these things. I manually remove any visible copper from the computers, power supplies and monitors; I use the cct lights from scanners for boredom projects like lighting shadow boxes and kitchen cabinets; the metal box with all the wires coming out of it has a brushless fan which I've found MANY uses for like force venting my crawl space, venting my grill (inside's a hotplate to heat pc boards for removing IC chips, the hundreds of gold plated leads, and almost everything on the board, and propane to melt the insulation from copper wire). My big question(s) are (mainly for Bruce) is there any documentation, maybe with a few pictures to help identify the valuable parts/metals from the scrap to keep from getting ripped off? I do some metal and iron work that requires an extreme amount of heat so would melting the copper (and maybe other metals) into chunks for easier bulk storage (as opposed to the barrel full of loose wire) be feasible? I am also a disabled insomniac with OCD so I have to constantly be doing tedious projects so I dismantle electronics. That is also the explanation for my run-on explanations and questions. I have found that with most hard drive platters, you can bend them to separate the outer coating from the platter. I know I have other questions but my thoughts are racing and I just can't seem to hold them down long enough to type them out. Thanks a lot for your help.
Steven

Steven Jenkins
- Boaz, Alabama


March 16, 2010

Q. Hi, I have pounds of older hard drive platters. I just sold 33 pounds of motherboards, memory, cpu's & pci cards ie: video-network & so on. One person I spoke with said that the platters are worth money. Just wondering what alloy is mixed in with the aluminum, they're just too strong to be just aluminum. Last is there a market for the motors/spindles that turn the platters & the magnets. I was told the magnets are worth selling, just need to know if that is true...... Thanks, Dan from Oakland County, MI.

P.S. I just sold this lot for $109.75 USD + shipping.
17 lbs. 7 oz motherboards
8 lbs. 6 oz PCI cards
2 lbs 7 oz memory
1 lb 3 oz ceramic processors
1 lb 1.5 oz intel 478 processors
0 lb 9.70 oz non ceramic processors
0 lb 14.7 oz sister boards
0 lb 12 oz slot A, slot 7 processors

Dan Jennings
computer repair / reseller - Waterford, Michigan, US


August 28, 2010

Q. HOW Platinum IS RECYCLED FROM hard disc platters and platinum condition in nitric acid.

Muhammad hammad
refining the gold - sargodha punjab pakistan

September 22, 2010

Q. Hello,
My name is Mike, and I'm new to this whole process I am in the game more or less because life has become somewhat boring and I have found new things seem to rehabilitate my drive in general.
Having said all that I would like to simply ask two questions.
1. Is there enough platinum or other exotic on hard drives to make them worth the time and energy it takes to accumulate them and perhaps how much per pound could they be worth?
2.I have accumulated about 8-10 pounds of very nicely plated Gold pins, etc...
And I am aware that this can vary widely but does anyone have an opinion on a lot that size what one can expect at a minimum if they are in fact as plated as I have described?
Again I would say 50% is completely plated and the remainder would br about 20-35% plated.
I will keep my correspondence shorter in the future.
Also there's some great people out there please keep up the good work helping others from what I have read in the future there are some great minds out there.
Thank you Mike........

Mike Healy
Student of life - Danvers, Massachusetts

October 28, 2010

Q. I have found that taking apart CRT's is somewhat lucrative also. In my city, you can go down any alley and find one or two laying out by the garbage. They contain copper wires, copper yokes, and a nice big circuit board. The only downside is disposing of the glass. I also have a question. Do older computer towers typically have more precious metals than newer ones? Thanks, great website!

John Davis
- cashton, Wisconsin

December 28, 2010

A. I'll give you guys a little insight since I actually work in the e-recycling industry. The name of the game here is VOLUME. In order to really net any money, you need to either deal in large volumes direct to a smelter like we do or at a step down from that, find a company like mine that has those relationships and can give you top dollar for proper disposition of the items (beware of all of the droves of Chinese companies with American names who just send your stuff out the back door in a container bound for Asia...they'll usually pay the most for computers since they have no dismantling costs).

CRT's and broken LCD's cost money to get rid of; no way around that...leaded glass in the CRT's and mercury in the LCD's which have to go to EPA certified facilities for proper handling once the units have been dismantled. There's money in the yokes & boards, but that's quickly eaten into by the cost to get rid of the glass and your labor. Printers are worthless other than the toner cartridges out of laser printers and the free paper that's usually left in the trays ;)

The high value items in the PC's are indeed the motherboards, the RAM and the processors and older is better = more precious metals. For example, a Pentium 4 is worth about $9-10/lb, Pentium I is worth about $110/lb. Motherboards/high grade boards will typically fetch us around $4.20/lb (we'll pay around $3.30/lb to get them...we *do* have operating costs that have to be covered with a large facility and $2 mil in shredders and optical sorting equipment). My last batch of mixed RAM netted just shy of $19/lb and is probably closer to $20-21/lb now. Mixed processor lot sent at the same time (heavy on Slot 1 processors which are about the cheapest) was about $29/lb. BUT, in order to get these returns you need volume (as well as storage space as most large smelters take a truckload at a time and you have to ship on THEIR schedule based upon how they've scheduled their processing) and you have to wait about 2 months to see your money. We'll typically pay $0.20/lb to get low grade board like what comes out of the CRT's and TV's, but you need to bring us at least a gaylord full to make it worth our time. IIRC the yokes are up around $1/lb. We have several local recyclers who bring their stuff to us because we pay more than anyone other than the Chinese exporters (and we match most of their pricing). If you're looking to get into this, your time is best spent accumulating, doing very basic dismantling and sorting and letting a company like ours do the 'heavy lifting'. I'll typically pay upwards of $0.30/lb for a PC, then we'll dismantle it separating the battery (goes to a battery recycler), processor, motherboard, memory, DVD drive (still has some resale value, CD's stay with the case & go through the shredders), heatsink & processor fan. Plastic is basically worthless and everything else is basically a game of pennies...you need volume to make money off of that stuff. Hope this was of some help.

Schuyler Ldeleted
- Mansfield, Ohio USA

February 18, 2011

Q. Where is platinum located in the salvaged hard drive?

jim delk
- muncie, Indiana

April 16, 2011

A. Your question is very complicated and simple at the same time. In the current market whole PC's are purchased as a commodity as are all the components (HDD, board, processors etc).

While opinions vary, most recyclers are doing things in an environmentally responsible manner. By the way, every pound of Cu, Al, Fe recovered via secondaries (like scrap wire or hard drives) is a pound we don't need to mine!

Scrapping of all sorts can be somewhat lucrative if your expectations are low (spare money as opposed to living wage). If you want to go full force it can be very lucrative but you need deep pockets (at today's prices anyway).

The main problem is that most individuals who are willing to give you a PC also need you to take an old CRT. (If they give you an LCD with an unbroken screen and case, take it! LOL).

Now you have a positive (PC) and a negative (CRT). The CRT is most likely going to cost you money to get rid of the right way. Some municipalities have free recycling programs for TV's and CRT's. If yours does best thing is to use it.

Some printers have reusable value, some cartridges do as well. Right now if I have large volume of printers I am lucky to get a few cents a lb. delivered to the recycler.

Stay away from your aluminum can recyclers with your scrap PC's. If they take it they will pay almost nothing. Instead you can collect a few hundred pounds of high grade stuff (such as old RAM, processors, PC mother and peripheral boards) and send off to a refiner.

A lot of people advocate refining at home. I am not one of them. The potential health hazards cannot possibly be worth it.

While you are waiting to get enough high grade to ship make sure you sell your "content" items. Power supplies, harness wire, things like that. What you can get depends a lot on how much you can collect before selling. Call around, shop a few prices before selling.

I am in this business but I won't discuss pricing because it changes regularly and it also varies with quantity. However, it can be worth it.

I hope my response to your question is helpful. Recycling is a lot of fun! Even if doing it on a personal level may not make you a fortune you learn a lot about things by looking at a waste stream.


Hope you enjoy and good luck.

Mike Ainpour
- Chicago Illinois

May 16, 2011

thumbsup2Holy Shnikes Batman! This has proven to be an excellent thread! I appreciate Finishing.com and people willing to share and enlighten us. I am relatively new to this but I have gleaned a great amount of information and have already began to reap the rewards. I wish there was more references to fair secondary smelters by city/state. So far it's hit and miss on where to go and how to handle volumes. These e-cyclers are willing to pick up truck load volumes so far, but the prices are so vastly different. One guy pays $2/lb to drop off where another pays $4/lb to pick up. I am separating every component until I know better. Hard drives, readers, ram chips, IC's, CPU's, gold fingers, etc. My local recyclers gladly take my aluminum, copper and sheet steel. Hopefully I can find someone to work out a nice package envelope so we can get our local government and surrounding municipalities on board to process e-waste.
Thanks for all who take time to share their experience and knowledge!

Jeremiah Pate
- Dothan, Alabama, USA

September 13, 2011

A. I work in hard drive production. I can tell you the manufactured disks have either a glass core or an aluminum magnesium core, and then a super thin-film coating of magnetic material, then diamond-like carbon, also thin-film. The platinum is sputtered on with other materials in a layer just 10s of angstroms thick, along with cobalt, chrome, etc. Total manufactured price is under $1 per disk, the amount of platinum involved is minuscule.

Sng Guil
Engineering - San Francisco, California

July 19, 2012

A. It's taken me just about forever, but I've finally found some way to answer the simple question "How much platinum is in these hard drive platters showing up on Ebay for salvage?" "The Chemistry of Computing" over at extremetech.com (www.extremetech.com/computing/77316-the-chemistry-of-computing) has all the facts: surface layer of Co-Cr-Pt alloy is 40-50% platinum, and the layer is ~30 nm thick. I don't have a hard drive platter in front of me, so let's just forget about the hole in the middle for a moment, so one platter from a 3.5" disk is 3.14*(3.5/2)^2=10.4 sq inches or 67.2 cm^2 ... times the 30 nm thickness (3x10^-6 cm) is 2.0x10-4 cm^3, times the (optimistic) 50% Pd, times the density of Pt (21.45 g/cm^3) and I estimate one platter has at most 2.2 mg Pt. As of 08/29/2008, the platinum spot price was 1470.00 USD per troy ounce, or more usefully, 4.73 cents per milligram.

So, congratulations, you've just spent an hour of time and three cents of chemicals (just a guess, probably high) to reclaim 10 cents of platinum, probably still contaminated with cobalt and chromium depending on your recovery method. I hope you bought a whole bunch of platters cheap and rode a bike to pick them up because I doubt you'll be paying for gas let alone the shipping with the platinum. Or hope those early hard drives used a much thicker layer....

Kevin Hughes
Looking for work - Tarzana, California


June 4, 2012

thumbsup2Thank you for stating the facts so that I don't have to waste my time finding out that I'm wasting my time.
Good Day!

Charles Lindsey Jr
- Deep Gap, North Carolina


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