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Urban mining: the city as a source of valuable metals

Can you imagine life without electronics or technology? What if, all of a sudden, you no longer had a computer or phone? Or no coffee machine? It’s an almost unthinkable scenario. Yet, we must be prepared for the natural raw materials that sustain our electric lifestyle to run out one day. The source is not inexhaustible. The question then arises: how should we proceed?

Can urban mining ensure that we will be able to use electrical appliances in the future? Discover the answer in this article.

Valuable metals hidden in waste

A circular thinker looks at a rubbish heap and sees a big heap of raw materials. That is a big step forward compared to a few generations ago, when waste was just waste and valuable raw materials only came from mines. However, much has changed in the meantime and we know that discarding something does not necessarily mean the end. Inside worn-out appliances and empty batteries, there are still many valuable metals waiting to be mined.

To obtain these raw materials, two things are needed:

  1. sophisticated recycling processes, and
  2. sorting efforts by the whole of society.

The above elements will enable us to reap the benefits of raw materials reclaimed from urban mining in the future.

What is urban mining?

Literally, urban mining means 'urban extraction'. Our urban waste is a rich source of raw materials that we can recover through recycling.

In other words, the valuable metals in discarded batteries and appliances are not recovered with a pickaxe, but through high-tech recycling processes. Recycling experts, for example, extract raw materials such as nickel, lead, iron, copper and lithium from used batteries so that they can be reused in new batteries and other applications (from eyeglass frames to wheelbarrows).

We are therefore no longer entirely dependent on exploiting natural mines. And it better be because our technological progress is moving fast. High-growth markets, such as electric vehicles, robotics and home automation, logically increase the demand for raw materials. However, traditional extraction methods have long since ceased to be ideal, so it is advisable to switch to urban mining as much as possible.

In any case, the basis for making a success of this new form of exploitation is there. Indeed, there are enough raw materials in circulation to increasingly become less dependent on conventional mining (provided the right recycling efforts are made).

"It is important that we use raw materials sparingly and switch to urban mining as much as possible".

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What can you do?

In order to give urban mining the best chance of success, we must all do our bit. After all, the 'urban mine' must be filled with our sorted waste.

This is what you can do:

  • Don't just throw your discarded appliances in the dustbin, but take them to a Recupel collection point. There is still a lot that can be recycled from old electrical appliances. Tip: remove the batteries first.
  • Take all your used batteries to a Bebat collection point . We take them to approved recycling companies, which in turn mine the valuable raw materials for reuse.

In our country, there are now more than 23,000 Bebat collection points for ordinary house, garden and kitchen batteries. These can be found in shops, companies, schools and recycling facilities. For larger batteries, e.g. for energy storage or in electric vehicles, Bebat takes care of collection, transport and processing on the basis of an individual agreement.

If we all make this small effort, we will be on the way to a promising future!

Start collecting your empty batteries straight away. Find your nearest Bebat collection point.


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