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Recovering telephone office scrap

(-----) January 21, 2008

Yesterday a friend told me he salvaged a couple of tons of scrap from a telephone company when they converted to an electronic exchange. The scrap is mostly relays with copper coils, brass leaves and they have gold tips. Each gold tip is about a 1.5 mm cube. The relay frames are steel. Whats the best way to get the value from this kind of material, to sell off or process yourself? If processing at home what is the best way? At first I would imagine that he would clip the ends of the relay leaves and recover the gold by some method. Thank you

Randy Roeges
hobbyist - Lake Lotawana, Missouri, USA

January 22, 2008

Hello, Randy. I am not saying that recycling of e-waste is impossible to do, or that you and your friend cannot possibly do it. But thinking that it is simple enough that you can learn how to do it practically and profitably from a quick internet posting is wrong.

You are competing against billion dollar refineries in the final stages of the recovery, and against peasants and street urchins in the poorest areas of China and India in the early stages like clipping, scraping, and desoldering -- so it's not easy to make money at this; and most of the major environmental agencies consider attempted recycling of e-waste by individuals as a major ecological plague. Look up "e-waste" on YouTube.

One of the problems is that e-waste is just barely economically practical to recycle. But if the initial steps are not done in a "secure" environment to contain the lead and other toxins, it's becomes too late, and the toxins are everywhere; meanwhile the "cherry picking" shifts the economics to where dumping the remains to these e-waste ghettos is inevitable. Here's a pretty good discussion:

Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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