" We believe that while some metal mining may always be necessary, ultimately our most important extraction operations should be taking place in scrap yards and recycling centres rather than sensitive ecological areas and ancestral lands."
- Ashley Heather
Mining just ten grams of gold displaces 4800kg of earth. But gold isn’t only to be found underground, in fact a significant proportion of the world’s gold supply is already above ground and much of it in a very surprising place…our landfills.
E-waste (electronic waste) is a blanket term for discarded electronic products or components. These devices often make use of, amongst many other materials, small amounts of gold and silver due to both metals’ remarkable electrical conductivity. The average computer for example has about a fifth of a gram of gold in it.
Only 15-20% of e-waste worldwide is currently recycled, the balance being left in landfills where it begins to degrade releasing toxins into the air, soil, and groundwater. In the United States alone cell phones containing $60 million of gold and silver are dumped every year. This hardly seems a fitting end for one of humankind’s most venerated substances.
FROM TRASH TO TREASURE - OUR RECYCLING PROCESS
Our refining process begins by manually dismantling the waste electronic products. All the components are then sent their separate ways for recycling. The circuit boards are run through a shredder before being fed into the furnace. This results in two materials, the slag which is a by-product (it gets a second life in the construction of roads) and a mixed metal mass. This mass is a combination of copper, gold, silver and, depending on the type of e-waste, a few other metals. Next, the most technically challenging aspect of the recycling process, the precious metals are separated out into solutions before being melted again in the final stage to ensure a pure, high quality material.
The recycled gold and silver begins its new life in our Cape Town studio where it is alloyed and meticulously crafted into easy-wearing jewellery.
THE REFINERY, THE STUDIO AND BEYOND
Everyday provides a fresh opportunity to interrogate what it really means to run a green company and whilst our dream of a fully solar powered operation may still be years away that doesn’t stop us from making considered decisions today and every other day. We believe in an holistic view of resources and strive to make all the supporting processes around our e-waste recycling and jewellery manufacturing as eco-friendly as the material itself.
EMISSIONS CONCIOUS REFINING
Our refinery works tirelessly to manage, capture and neutralize the emissions from the recycling process. The controlled laboratory environment, operated by skilled chemical engineers, means that environmental and personal health and safety are at the forefront of every process.
ECO FRIENDLY STUDIO
In the studio we make use of natural, non-toxic alternatives to harmful chemicals common to the jewellery trade. All our gold and silver dust and offcuts are carefully saved and recycled again, keeping the circular economy loop tightly closed. All our non-jewellery waste is sorted and recycled. We source as many of our supplies and tools as possible locally to keep our carbon footprint as small as possible.
Your jewellery will arrive in recycled and biodegradable packaging (we’re still working on the plastic courier bags issue). The hand sewn hemp bag is designed to last, to be used for storing and protecting your jewellery (or other little bits and bobs). Hemp grows prolifically with little water and no pesticides.
Both our studio and refinery aim to cultivate friendly, safe and respectful environments with fair wages and no discrimination. We are nothing without our passionate team and commit to their wellbeing over all else. We work with a network of reputable and trusted e-waste collectors, many of whom are small family run businesses. We pay a fair price for the e-waste we purchase (of course we value your donations as well) and regularly visit our e-waste aggregators at their sites for a cup of coffee and a check in.