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The importance and impact of recycling precious metals

We all know that recycling is vital for recovering valuable materials and for helping the environment, but are you aware of the importance of precious metal recycling? This business is not only beneficial for environmental preservation, but it’s also the basis of a powerful industry. 

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Recycling scrap metal means extracting it from end-of-life products and processing it so that it can be used as a raw material in the creation of new products. One of the main characteristics of precious metals is that they can be recycled and reused repeatedly without degradation or loss of their valuable properties as metals.

These metals are crucial to sustaining many industries and products we rely on daily. In this article, we will review the impact and importance of recycling precious metals, as well as some history of this practice. Keep reading!

History of precious metal recycling

The recycling of metals is a process that’s been practiced for a very long time, since around 400 B.C. Historical studies show that early Romans would melt down bronze coins and repurpose that bronze to craft statues, and in times of war, jewelry and other metal objects were melted to make weapons. 

It’s estimated that most metal articles in the days pre-1100 B.C were recycled, based on the evidence that there are fewer physical items found around dig sites that are dated around times of distress, such as famine and war.

The early days of precious metal recycling were way more rustic than the process we use today, but the core concept of melting the metals to separate them from impurities is pretty much the same. In antiquity, the process of purification of precious metals was called cupellation, and it involved treating the metals with very high temperatures in porous crucibles. Metals have a lower melting temperature and react with the oxygen of the environment, forming slags that are absorbed by the crucible. It’s still used today on a small scale to test the purity of gold and silver. Though cupellation was quite an accurate method, modern refining techniques allow up to 99.99% purity results. 

Moving on to the pre-industrial revolution, before metals were mass-produced, recycling all kinds of metals was a big practice. Since there wasn’t a lot of metal created, people had to be wiser about how they used it, which is why recycling was necessary. Even so, at the time, recycling metal was seen as more important for economic reasons than for environmental reasons. This recycling habit slowly became less necessary when metal mining began to be a more extensive activity.

World War II marked a turning point for the recycling of metal, particularly in the US. Citizens were urged to give as much scrap metal as possible so that it might be used for the war effort. This was because so many war machines needed to be manufactured. Soon enough, metal recycling became a societal norm.

Modern-day and the importance of the precious metal recycling industry

In modern-day times, precious metal recycling is an extremely powerful economic activity, aside from the fact that it’s become necessary as a means to prevent the environmental problems caused by mining. 

In 2020, the precious metal recycling global market was valued at $22.6 billion, and it’s expected to grow into a $34.9 billion industry by 2027, at a compound annual growth rate of 6.4%. (Source: https://www.rfdtv.com/story/46712111/global-precious-metal-recycling.)

Despite that, this sector is still emerging given the great potential these kinds of metals have to be completely recovered. According to this report, the recycling rates of these materials are way lower than expected, with only one-third of the metals studied nearing an average recycling rate of 50%.

The impact of recycling – Precious metal recovery

After being used, metals can be recycled to secure the availability of a valuable secondary source of the metal, lessen the environmental impact of mining primary ore, and protect an irreplaceable resource that would otherwise be wasted.

Energy and resource savings for secondary production range from 60 to 90% for a variety of metals compared to primary mining. Recycling provides the raw material for new products with a much lower carbon footprint and more efficient utilization of resources than new material.

The metal mining process produces a variety of undesirable effects:

  • Disruption to the landscape
  • Soil, water, and air contamination
  • Public safety and social exploitation

Approximately, for every ounce of precious metal we recycle, we save:

Oz of metal Reduced tons of waste BTUs of energy Lbs. of CO2 emissions Gallons of water
1 19 700,000 250,000 18.7

This data is strictly linked to the source of the recycled metals, as precious metal recovery can come from two categories of scrap: the first is high-value scrap that comes from jewelry, dental scrap, and coins; the second is electronic and industrial scrap metals, which come with much more waste materials as a side product of their refining. Recycling efficiencies also depend on the precious metal refining companies and the processes they use.

Where do the precious metals you recycle go?

As we mentioned before, one of the main characteristics of precious metals is that they can be fully recovered and reused, meaning that recycled metals are used for the same applications as “new” precious metals.

In 2020, 47.2% of precious metals were used in investments, followed by 37.5% used for jewelry, 8.0% for technology, and the rest for a variety of industries like electronics, dentistry, and aerospatial. However, this trend was affected by the uncertainty caused by the COVID pandemic, which increased the amount of gold for investments by 40%.

How can you start recycling?

If you want to enter this growing field of precious metal recovery, you can do it now! Core Scientific is the leading precious metal refinery in the US. You can request a free container now and send in your materials to start recycling your precious metal scrap with us. 

We offer the highest returns in the industry, we use state-of-the-art technology that secures the highest yield of recovery, and we send you an assay report of all the metals found in your scrap, which supports our 100% transparency policy. Request a container now or contact us to know more about our process!



700 Industrial Drive, Ste K

Cary IL

60013, United States

Phone: 866-660-4631

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Comments (1)

[…] Conserve: Recycling precious metals is a good way to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, which creates hazards such as toxic fumes and water supply contamination, besides detriment to the communities around it by reducing their value. Another benefit of gold and silver recycling is that it helps to ensure a steady supply of these metals for various industries. The demand for these metals is growing, and recycling can help to meet this demand while also reducing the impact of new mining operations. Check this article to learn more about the impact of precious metal recycling. […]

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