A new pilot study that examines the potential for electronic waste (e-waste) recycling in Minnesota shows that a more concentrated, statewide effort to recycle the valuable metals contained in electronic devices could produce nearly two thousand jobs and provide $2.8 billion in revenue per year. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world, and Minnesota could be a pioneer in turning this waste into economic benefits.
“In public conversations about mining, we only usually talk about mining for virgin metals, but there are a lot of opportunities to reuse the metal that’s already been dug out of the ground, and it seems wholly irresponsible to not look there first before we alter even more landscapes and communities,” said Professor Roopali Phadke, who is one of the study’s principal investigators and a scholar of environmental politics and policy at Macalester College.
The study, conducted in partnership between Phadke, the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability, and Repowered, one of the state’s largest e-waste recyclers, was undertaken with two goals in mind:
• To find out how much e-waste there is in Minnesota;
• To try to answer the question: Is it even plausible that we can harvest from the waste stream enough precious metals to make a dent in what we need in order to build all of the things we want to build?