Buried deep inside many laptops is a bit of hidden treasure: Gold.
However, before you go hacking apart your computer to get at the shiny stuff, there are a few important things to consider. First, you'd need about 200 laptops to get about a little over one-third of a pound of gold, meaning that the amount in an individual laptop is very small. And second, it isn't exactly easy to extract the material from motherboards in a sustainable way.
But that's exactly what computer company Dell and actress Nikki Reed have managed to do with a new jewelry collaboration, the Circular Collection, unveiled today at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The limited edition collection of 14 and 18 carat earrings, rings, and cufflinks is made of gold recovered from recycled motherboards.
Reed, who is best known for her role as Rosalie Hale in the Twilight movies, is a passionate sustainability advocate. Her company, Bayou with Love, sells apparel and home goods that meet a strict ethical checklist: Everything is local, sustainable, and recycled or upcycled.
However, using the gold from old hardware was a new challenge. "I hadn't worked with this medium before — a lot of what we use in our sustainable products are recycled ocean plastics," Reed told Refinery29. "Our factory [in LA] was asking me all these questions, like how are we going to receive this gold? There are all these legalities that come along with that — they have to receive it in a certain form so it has to be extracted in a certain way."
The process went like this: Dell gathered old computers donated to its consumer recycling program, Dell Reconnect, and business program, Asset Resale and Recycling. These were sent to a partner, Dallas, Texas based company Wistron Green Tech, which extracted the small amount of gold from each motherboard, turned it into gold bars, and shipped these to Reed's Bayou with Love.
The delicate gold jewelry that was created underscores the importance of raising awareness for tech recycling. According to Dell, which uses about 7,000 pounds of gold in its products every year, only 12.5% of e-waste is recycled to create other products. Meanwhile, over $60 million of gold and silver ends up in the trash from tech that is unsustainably disposed of.
With her jewelry collaboration, Reed is hoping to raise awareness and change some of the stereotypes about sustainability. "I want to shatter a lot off the misconceptions about sustainable materials and this preconceived notion that sustainability and luxury can't belong in the same sentence," she told Refinery29.
The collection's prices are affordable, with pieces starting at $78, and only one, the cufflinks, that exceeds $170. Although it's high-quality gold, Reed says she felt strongly about pricing the products more affordably to educate buyers about tech recycling and how various components of your old phones and laptops can be used to create something new. Just because something is broke doesn't mean you can't reuse its parts.