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Toxic mine: Gold worth £7 billion up for grabs, but its buried under 42 million tons of e-waste

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eWaste

By NewsGram Staff Writer

A report by the United Nations University (UNU) has revealed that the amount of “e-waste” generated globally is increasing by two million tons a year and will reach 50 megatons by 2018 – with Britons among the planet’s biggest generators of hi-tech junk.

The study warns that less than 16 per cent of global e-waste is being diverted from landfill into recycling and reuse – representing the loss of an “urban mine” of potentially recyclable materials worth more than £34 billion.

Gold worth more than £7 billion is being thrown away amid the 42 million tons of electronic and electrical equipment discarded by consumers, according to United Nations experts.

Among the resources being lost annually, as millions of items from mobile phones to fridges are inadequately disposed of, are 300 tons of gold (equivalent to more than a 10th of global production in 2013) as well as 1,000 tons of silver worth £400 million and 16 megatons of steel with a value of £6.5 billion.

The UNU research found that rather than being dominated by discarded electronics such as mobile phones or computers, the majority (nearly 60 per cent) of e-waste consisted of large and small domestic appliances or office equipment.

UN under-secretary and rector of the Tokyo-based UNU, David Malone said: “Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable ‘urban mine’ – a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials. At the same time, the hazardous content of e-waste constitutes a ‘toxic mine’ that must be managed with extreme care. There is a large portion of e-waste that is not being collected and treated in an environmentally sound manner.”

The report also identified Britain among the world’s most profligate producers of e-waste, ranking fifth in the weight of material discarded per inhabitant, with each Briton generating 23.5 kg each year.

The UK was also sixth worldwide in the total amount of e-waste the country generated, with some 1.5 megatons – barely 100,000 tons less than India which has 20 times the population.

The UNU report said that only one-third of e-waste in the UK is recycled through recognised schemes – a figure that must reach 85 per cent under EU rules by 2019.

Federico Magalini, a UNU researcher said, “In the UK we are seeing that the ‘lifespan’ of an electric or electronic product may be particularly short.

“We should not simply try to stop consumption to minimise the amount of waste being generated, but should instead make sure that it is properly collected and recycled. There is an opportunity to create jobs and extract those resources currently being discarded”, he added.

The fast-growing mountain of waste also contains alarming quantities of toxins, including 4,400 tons of ozone-depleting chemicals and 2.2 megatons of lead glass weighing more than the equivalent of the Empire State Building.

Heavy metals and other chemicals commonly found in electronics such as mercury, cadmium and beryllium can leach into the ground and water supplies, causing kidney and liver damage and impaired mental development.

Next Story

Hallmarking of Gold Jewellery Becomes Mandatory from January, 2020

Regarding the impact on prices, the Kolkata-based jeweller, however, said that there is unlikely to be any impact on prices as hallmarking of one gold item costs "only around Rs 40" and traders would be able to afford it

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gold jewelry
Among so many kinds of gold jewelry items, gold bangles are the most popular. Pixabay

Union Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Friday announced that hallmarking of gold jewellery and artefacts will be mandatory from January 15, 2020.

Addressing the media, Paswan said that hallmarking of gold jewellery and artefacts is being made mandatory in India for which a notification will be issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs and a period of one year will be given for implementation to ensure that new assaying and hallmarking centres will be set up by private entrepreneurs at locations where demand of gold jewellery and artefacts arises.

Jewellers will also get a year’s time for completion of their registration process and retailers also would have a year to clear their existing stocks.

The minister said that hallmarking will benefit the poor people in villages and small towns who are not able to make out the purity of gold they have been buying.

The Bureau of Indian Standards Act 2016 has enabling provisions under Section 14 and Section 16 for making hallmarking of gold jewellery and artefacts mandatory by the Central government. This will make it compulsory for all the jewellers selling gold jewellery and artefacts to register with the BIS and sell only hallmarked gold jewellery and artefacts, an official statement said.

The BIS Act 2016 has been implemented with effect from October 12, 2017 and BIS Hallmarking Regulations 2018 notified with effect from June 14, 2018. BIS has been running a hallmarking scheme for gold jewellery since April 2000. As on October 31, 2019, there were 877 assaying and hallmarking centres spread in 234 district locations across the country and so far 26,019 jewellers have taken BIS registration, as per the statement.

The World Gold Council (WGC) welcomed the move and said that it would benefit both the consumers and traders alike.

Idea, Gold, Imports
The idea of reducing gold imports is important, but suggestions ranging from raising import duties further to imposing bans need to be reassessed urgently. Pixabay

Somasundaram P.R., Managing Director, India, WGC said: “This is an excellent step in the right direction, a long overdue policy action. It will bring trust back to the gold industry, benefiting consumers and trade alike. It will change the image of the Indian gold industry and enable it to market our famed jewellery handcrafting skills in an environment of trust and transparency.”

“Mandatory hallmarking would lead to more jobs in assaying and purity verification which in turn will support the gold monetisation scheme, he said adding that the period of one year to transition takes into account business realities and is very supportive of trade.

The decision however received concerned reactions from the market as market players say India significantly lags in terms of assaying and hallmarking centres.

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Speaking to IANS, jewellery trader and former Chairman of the All Indian Gems and Jewellery Federation Chairman, Bachhraj Bamalwa said: “Although there is not going to any major impact on the market because most of the jewellers in the metro cities carry out hallmarking, there will be issues in the three tier and four tier cities as there are no hallmarking centres. Traders in small cities will find it tough to get their jewellery stock hallmarked, as the reach of the hallmarking centres is quity low.”

“Government should take the industry into confidence in order to make the law,” Bamalwa said.

Regarding the impact on prices, the Kolkata-based jeweller, however, said that there is unlikely to be any impact on prices as hallmarking of one gold item costs “only around Rs 40” and traders would be able to afford it. (IANS)