In New Zealand, microbes are extracting gold from electronic waste

Cell phones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches: the modern world is packed with a dizzying array of gadgets that bring us connectivity, entertainment and information. Our hunger for the latest models – and the cachet that buying them brings – is such that these pieces of kit have, for some, become readily disposable.

This “throwaway” culture often means consumers are guilty of getting rid of old devices as soon as new ones come to the market, a habit that can have a significant effect on waste streams and the environment.

A recent report found that 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste was produced in 2019, with just 17.4% of this amount “officially documented as properly collected and recycled.”

The Global E-waste Statistics Partnership published the “Global E-waste Monitor 2020” report in July and described e-waste as containing harmful substances including mercury, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons and brominated flame retardants.

It also painted a stark

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