Think your old, broken laptop is worthless? Dell doesn't.
At CES in Las Vegas, the computer giant announced a new initiative to mine old or broken laptop parts for gold.
As strong conductors of electricity that don't corrode, small amounts of gold are found in many major electronic products. Recover a sufficient quantity of these old motherboards, and you have enough metal for a delicate ring or set of earrings.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, for every million cell phones that are recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. But when we upgrade our laptops and phones every few years, we don't always recycle what's known as e-waste — adding to pollution as metals end up in landfills or taint water supplies, and requiring new, energy-intensive mining.
Dell wants to do more than just encourage people to recycle old electronics — it wants to re-use their valuable metals in new Dell products and more.
To draw attention to these efforts, it's teaming up with actress Nikki Reed and her eco-friendly Bayou with Love brand, which she co-founded last year, to create a jewelry line completely sourced from the recycled electronics that Dell collects. Among the items that will be created include 14- and 18-carat gold rings, cufflinks, and earrings.
The products, on sale today, will be sold directly from the Bayou with Love website. Pricing will range from $78 for a gold ball ring to $348 for a pair of cufflinks. The items are also fully made of gold and are not simply gold-plated.
"We made a very specific choice in how we were pricing these pieces," Reed tells USA TODAY. "We didn't want the misconception that recycled gold or sustainable materials should be looked at as a lesser value in any way."
While the average computer, phone or electronic device does not contain nearly enough of these materials to have any value to the consumer (not to mention the fact that mining them from assembled electronics is no simple task), for large-scale recycling efforts, there are plenty of rewards.
According to Dell, it will take approximately six motherboards to produce a single piece of jewelry. In addition to providing the gold, Dell will also be assisting the company with communication and marketing support as part of its Dell Small Business advisory program.
Like many major electronics makers, Dell provides a free way for customers to send back old electronics, including non-Dell branded products, with the purchase of a new Dell product. The company also has a trade-in and recycling program where users can exchange their old electronics, even those not made by Dell, in exchange for a Dell gift card.
In addition to using recycled materials for jewelry, Dell will also be applying some of the gold it recycles into new motherboards for its Latitude 5285 computers shipping in March, which it claims will be a computer industry first.
“At Dell, we pride ourselves in finding better, more efficient ways to do business, particularly throughout our supply chain,” said Jeff Clarke, Dell’s vice chairman, in a press release announcing the news. “Materials innovation – where and how we source things like plastic, carbon fiber and now gold for our products – is increasingly important for us.”
Reed, known for her roles in the Twilight movie saga, is designing the products in partnership with her co-founder, Morgan Bogle. "I wanted to create pieces that could be worn every day," says Reed.
"Another form of upcycling is passing down jewelry from generation to generation... we wanted to create pieces that could be worn beyond our lifetime."