Cimelia is one of Raident Technology's partners. Located in Singapore, Cimelia handles electronic waste, or e-waste. It mines a treasure trove of precious metals from what is seen as junk.
Buried in everyday electronics, such as computers, are minute amounts of precious metals such as gold and palladium on the circuitry. A recycler extracts these metals using chemicals and casts them into bars, to be sold to jewellers or, in the case of industrial metals such as silver and copper, to manufacturers.
Said Seow, with a chuckle: “Other people mine gold from underground, we mine above ground from e-waste.”
Her company has more than 10 contracts with multinational manufacturers, who ship their waste from as far as Brazil and Europe to Singapore to be recycled at Cimelia's plant. It can handle up to 500kg of gold production a year.
Seow estimates that, on average, 1kg of gold can be recovered from about five tonnes of trash, which may be discarded personal computers, office photocopiers or sub-quality printed circuit boards.
Here is how it's done. The discards arrive from Cimelia's 17 collection centres worldwide. They are sorted according to the metals in them and then stripped for components.
Cimelia does not recycle plastics, which are sold to other recyclers.
The metal parts are then fed into a conveyor-belt crusher, which chews the bits into flecks. These are tipped into tanks of corrosive chemicals, which separate the metals. The metals are melted and cast into bars.
Each 1kg gold bar is worth about S$22,000 (RM49,000).
But beyond the gold, there are environmental and business considerations.
Dr Frank Montabon, an assistant professor at Iowa University, who has worked with companies in the United States on their recycling practices, said manufacturers saved on landfill fees and derived revenue from selling their scrap.
One-stop recyclers such as Cimelia also helped manufacturers, as one of their main difficulties was having to deal with different companies at each phase of recycling, said Harriet Green, president of Arrow Asia Pacific, a large distributor of semiconductor components in Asia.
The promise in the business has attracted companies such as Florida-based Technology Conservation Group and SembCorp Environment to set up recycling plants here.